Liquid crystal on silicon

Liquid crystal on silicon
Conceptual diagram of the LCoS technology.

Liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS or LCOS) is a "micro-projection" or "micro-display" technology typically applied in projection televisions. It is a reflective technology similar to DLP projectors; however, it uses liquid crystals instead of individual mirrors. By way of comparison, LCD projectors use transmissive LCD chips, allowing light to pass through the liquid crystal. In LCoS, liquid crystals are applied directly to the surface of a silicon chip coated with an aluminized layer, with some type of passivation layer, which is highly reflective.

LCoS technology can typically produce higher resolution and higher contrast images than standard liquid crystal display and plasma display technologies, which makes it less expensive to implement in such devices as televisions.


History and implementations

General Electric first demonstrated an LCoS display in the late 1970s. As a 'proof of concept' vehicle, it was very low resolution.

The late 1990s saw a number of companies attempt to develop products for near-eye and projection.

At the 2004 CES, Intel announced plans for the large scale production of inexpensive LCoS chips for use in flat panel displays. These plans were cancelled in October 2004. Sony has made it to market (December 2005) with the Sony-VPL-VW100 or "Ruby" projector, using SXRD, 3 LCoS chips each with a native resolution of 1080p (1920 × 1080), with a stated contrast ratio of 15,000:1 using a dynamic iris.

LCoS technology has the potential to enable the manufacture of big-screen high-definition televisions with very high picture quality at relatively low cost. However, LCoS, while conceptually straightforward, can be a difficult technology to master; a number of companies have dropped out of the LCoS business in recent years. Nonetheless, as of June 2006, proprietary methods for mass-producing LCoS developed, and at least four manufacturers produced LCoS-based rear-projection televisions for the consumer market; with the drop in prices for LCD and plasma flat panels, consumers stopped buying rear projection sets, and as of July 2010 LCoS-based rear-projection televisions are no longer being made.

Commercial implementations of LCoS technology include: Sony's SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) and JVC's D-ILA (Digital Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier), and Epson's 'reflective 3LCD'. Every company which produces and markets LCoS rear-projection televisions uses three-panel LCoS technology,[citation needed]. This is due to the fact that the HEO_5216_MC_5150 is the highest resolution 'single chip solution' currently available and is only 1280x720. Sony and JVC both produce and market front-projection displays that use three LCoS panels.

Direct-view LCoS devices such as the single-panel LED-illuminated devices made by Displaytech and Forth Dimension Displays (Dalgety Bay, Fife, Scotland) (formerly known as CRLO Displays) are also used as electronic viewfinders for digital cameras, for pico projectors and within Near to Eye (NTE) applications such as Head Mounted Displays (HMDs). These devices are made using ferroelectric liquid crystals (so the technology is named FLCoS), which are inherently faster than other types of liquid crystals. Displaytech was acquired by Micron Technology in May 2009, which is continuing to develop the FLCoS technology.[1][2]

Developers and manufacturers who have left the LCoS microimaging market include: Intel, Philips, MicroDisplay Corporation, S-Vision, Colorado Microdisplay, Spatialight, Syntax-Brillian.

Display system architectures

There are two broad categories of LCoS displays: three-panel and single-panel. In three-panel designs, there is one display chip per color, and the images are combined optically. In single-panel designs, one display chip shows the red, green, and blue components in succession with the observer's eyes relied upon to combine the color stream. As each color is presented, a color wheel (or an RGB LED array) illuminates the display with only red, green or blue light. If the frequency of the color fields is lower than about 540 Hz, an effect called color breakup is seen, where false colors are briefly perceived when either the image or the observer's eye is in motion. While less expensive; single-panel projectors require higher-speed display elements to process all three colors during a single frame time, and the need to avoid color breakup makes further demands on the speed of the display technology.

Three-panel designs

In a DLP device the light is separated into three components and then combined back: Two beam splitters are needed. In LCoS devices the light is additionally polarized and then analyzed; four beam splitters are needed. In most DLP sets a color wheel separates colors from a lamp, using one chip for all three colors; SXRD sets use three separate chips, one for each color.

One-panel designs

Both Toshiba's and Intel's single-panel LCOS display program were discontinued in 2004 before any units reached final-stage prototype.[3] There were single-panel LCoS displays in production. One by Philips, one by Microdisplay Corporation and one from Forth Dimension Displays. Forth Dimension Displays have a Ferroelectric LCoS display technology (known as TDI) (available in SXGA and 720P resolutions) which is mainly, but not exclusively, used in high resolution NTE applications such as Training & Simulation. Micron's FLCoS technology is another single panel RGB solution used in pico projectors and near-eye display applications.

See also


  1. ^ Micron Buys Displaytech: Key Validation of Pico Market, May 20, 2009, retrieved at May 21, 2009
  2. ^ Game-Changing Displaytech FLCoS Microdisplay Technology,, retrieved at May 21, 2009
  3. ^ Hachman, Mark. "Update: Intel Cancels LCOS Chip Plans". 415.992.5910. Extreme Tech. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 

External links

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