Motorola looks to nanotubes for displays

Motorola is conducting research in a new type of large flat-panel display which they claim has the potential of being cheaper than plasma or LCD (liquid crystal display) screens.

Motorola is conducting research in a new type of large flat-panel display which they claim has the potential of being cheaper than plasma or LCD (liquid crystal display) screens.

The new screen technology uses carbon nanotubes, which are long, thin strands of specialized carbon molecules. The material is now popular with researchers who are investigating its use in everything from optic cabling to anti-bacteria coatings.

The screen, dubbed a "nano emissive display" or NED, is being developed by Motorola Labs, the research arm of electronics giant Motorola.

"The technology enables manufacturers to design large flat panel displays that exceed the image quality characteristics of plasma and LCD screens at a lower cost," according to a statement from the lab.

Motorola currently is in discussions with electronics manufacturers in Europe and Asia to license the technology for commercialization.

Among the applications could be low cost, flat panel wall-mounted televisions, greater than 50" diagonal and one inch deep.

Motorola's breakthrough was a way to grow the nanotubes at low temperatures, a key need because the substrate with which they must bond, such as glass or transistors, are heat sensitive.

The lab also created a method to precisely place the nanotubes individually on a surface material. The ability to place the material directly on a substrate while controlling spacing, size, and length, provides a high quality image with optimized electron emissions, brightness, color purity and resolution for flat panel displays, said the report.

Researchers around the world are looking into using carbon nanotubes for flat displays. The molecules emit electrons when an electric current is applied to them. An array of cells composed of carbon nanotubes could be used to "paint" images on a screen, if individual cells within the array can be made to turn on and off fast enough in a coordinated fashion.

Elsewhere, scientists at IBM Research have discovered a new way to force carbon nanotubes to emit light, which could eventually lead to advances in fiber-optic technology. Big Blue has also shown off a new process for fabricating carbon nanotubes that could be incorporated into processors, a breakthrough that could lead to more powerful computers in the coming decades.

News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.