Various companies are currently trying to perfect the technology behind a new type of flat-panel display that will rely on diamonds or carbon nanotubes–two forms of pure carbon–to produce images.


Theoretically, these “field effect displays,” or FEDs, will consume less energy than plasma or liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs, deliver a better picture and even cost less. The development of FEDs underscores the rapid changes taking place in what had been a relatively staid TV market.



Once dominated by a few Japanese manufacturers, the television market now includes a wide variety of companies, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Westinghouse. If successful, FEDs could even render the new TVs being shown off this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas as has-beens.



“The concept of a nanotube TV will give you image quality similar to CRTs (cathode ray tubes), and the best image quality is still found on CRT TVs,” said Tom Pitstick, vice president of marketing at Houston’s Carbon Nanotechnologies. “All the major display manufacturers are looking at nanotube TVs.”



Electronics giant Samsung has already produced a prototype of a TV-size display made with CNI’s nanotubes. Televisions based on the new screens will nudge onto shelves in late 2006, he added.



Meanwhile, Advance Nanotech, in collaboration with the University of Bristol, is developing a similar panel that relies on specially doped diamond dust. The company hopes to have working prototypes in 18 months to two years.



So far, some of the biggest proponents of this approach could be Canon and Toshiba. The two manufacturers have formed a joint venture to make surface conduction electron emission (SED) panels, and Toshiba will produce large-screen SED televisions in 2006. Although Canon and Toshiba’s description of SEDs is very similar to that of FEDs, the two companies are using a different particle than carbon, industry analysts said.



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