Seen or unseen, the value is impossible to deny

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Few technologies exemplify the phrase “hidden in plain sight” more than displays. Our eyes practically move from one display to the next throughout the course of the day — from our smartphone to the television to the automotive dashboard to electronic billboards to our computer monitor. According to our reader data, one-third of you are reading this on a display right now.

And yet, even those of us in an industry focused on the manipulation of light rarely give the displays in our lives a second thought — until the technology finds another way to appear somewhere new or deepen our immersion in its digital content.

This happens with surprising regularity. LED displays alone have advanced at a steady pace, morphing from the all-red readouts of the 1960s into organic LEDs, active-matrix organic LEDs, and, most recently, into the current cutting-edge micro-LED and quantum dot displays emerging today. These technologies are setting new standards for brightness, contrast, spectral range, and low power consumption.

To be clear, “steady” is not the same thing as “rapid.” The challenges involved in producing next-generation displays at scale are nontrivial. Micro-LED displays, by definition, require precision manufacturing as well as careful calibration to ensure they deliver the goods on higher resolution and uniform image quality.

The “hidden in plain sight” theme continues here. Many of the key innovations in micro-LEDs are occurring in the background, though they often have a direct benefit for consumers. Advancements in pixel architecture, for example, not only promise sharper images, but they also promise to make these screens more manufacturable and therefore more affordable. Meanwhile, developments in test and measurement tools are contributing to improved quality, consistency, and the lifetime of next-generation displays.

In this edition of Photonics Spectra, our feature contributors highlight two under-sung areas of development in next- generation displays.

Porotech illustrates how an advancement in materials technology can ripple down the value chain to redefine pixel architectures and drive improvements in both the manufacturability and quality of micro-LED displays.

Radiant Vision Systems describes how display test, measurement, and calibration tools are evolving to keep pace with next-generation designs.

Each new generation of display brings its own startling leap in brightness, resolution, and contrast, until it grows increasingly invisible through daily use and consumer anticipation of the next big thing. As in other photonic sectors, the designers, manufacturers, and quality engineers of the display industry steadily work in the background to deliver on the dream.

Published: May 2023

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