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New liquid crystal promises faster LCDs

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Researchers have observed a new type of liquid crystal - long theorised, but not observed until now - that they say promises faster and cheaper liquid crystal displays.

The team, Dr. Satyendra Kumar, from Kent State university; and Dr. Andrew Primak, from Pacific Northwest National Lab. Dr. Bharat R. Acharya, of Platytus Technologies, used a small-angle X-ray diffraction technique to observe the crystal phase, called biaxial nematic liquid crystal.

In very simple terms, LCD displays function because electrical current can control the opacity of the crystals. The displays can be either passive or active: the active displays have transistors at each pixel point, so less current is needed to control its brightness.

The rate at which the current can be switched on and off (and still get a response from the crystal) determines the screen refresh time, and so the quality of the image - how a cursor tracks with mouse movement, for example.

This new crystal phase has the potential to speed the refresh rate a further ten times, the researchers say, as the crystals reorient more quickly in response to a voltage.

Acharya commented: "There was no evidence of the existence of biaxial nematic liquid crystals made of single molecules until recently."

In 2000, Kent State researchers presented initial findings at the March meeting of the American Physical Society, but these were more complex micellar, or aggregated, biaxial liquid crystals, Acharya explains, and do not have the right optical properties for use in displays.

A paper describing their work appeared in the April 9 issue of Physical Review Letters.These latest findings will be presented by Kumar at the International Liquid Crystal Conference in Slovenia on July 6, 2004. ®

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