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Cornell researchers develop projector in your pocket

Researchers at Cornell University have developed a laser technology that could lead to the ability to project high-definition television images from devices the size of cell phones.
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Written by ZDNet Editors, Contributors on

Coming soon to a cellphone near you ... the latest Hollywood blockbuster on HDTV. MIT Technology Review reports that researchers at Cornell University have developed a laser technology that could lead to the ability to project high-definition television images from devices the size of cell phones.

The new technology - called micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) - allows rapid scanning of wide areas with a laser. Cornell researchers have developed a small projector based on the MEMS device which could cast a meter-wide image on a surface only half a meter away.

The key to the technology is a small mirror, about half a millimeter across, suspended by carbon fibers. According to the Review, the fibers amplify the vibrations of a piezoelectric motor to move the mirror, which deflects a laser at different angles, causing it to sweep back and forth across a surface.

MEMS-based displays already exist in are used in movie and television projectors. Texas Instruments has developed a chip that uses millions of tiny mirrors, each of which turns pixels on and off by either turning toward or away from a light source.

Researchers at Cornell says that their device uses the high scanning speed of the mirror, combined with its ability to scan over a wide angle. The wide angle of the system is made possible, says Michael Thompson, a materials science and engineering professor and one of the researchers on the project, because the carbon fibers can bend sharply without breaking.

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