Quick, what color comes to mind when you think of LEDs? If you said blue, you're in the majority, and there's a good reason for that. Blue LEDs happen to be the most energy efficient of the bunch, which might explain why there's not a ton of color variation in the LED world. Jason Hartlove, CEO of Nanosys, thinks that's about to change.
Hartlove was on hand at CES to talk about a type of nanotechnology that could ultimately lead to LEDs with more vivid colors and a wider range of hues, all without sacrificing energy efficiency. So how does it work?
As Hartlove explains it, the technology involves taking a blue LED and adding a phosphor material built out of nanomaterials to create warm white lights. This special coating would allow LED makers to choose from a spectrum of colors.
"We use the same process nature has to architect nanomaterials that provide greater wavelength range," Hartlove explained.
The best part about this approach is that it should be relatively cheap to implement. Companies can easily add the material to their existing process line, Hartlove says, negating the need for costly new factories or significant hardware upgrades.
Look for products using Nanosys' technology to debut this year.
There's been a lot of fuss about LED backlighting the past year, but even so, LED-backlit LCD monitors won't make a major push into the mainstream until much later this year and into 2011, DigiTimes' "market sources" say.
Part of reason for this is because notebooks and LCD TVs are gobbling up most of the current LED inventory. There just hasn't been enough LED inventory to fulfill demand from monitor panel makers.
The other barrier comes down to price. Sources say the price gap between an 18.5-inch LED-backlit and CCFL-backlit monitor panel comes down to about $5, and while that doesn't sound like much, it translates into a retail price difference of about $30 to $50. That's enough to turn consumers' heads in a different direction.
You've probably seen a handful of big screen LED-backlit LCD televisions the last time you strolled through the TV section in your local electronics store, and in 2010, you'll be seeing a lot more of them, says iSupply.
More specifically, the market research firm says global LED-backlit TV shipments for 40-inch and larger models will jump nearly 8x in 2010 to 18.8 million units, up from 2.5 million units in 2009. iSupply attributes the nearly eight-fold increase to consumer demand, a push for green technologies, and a willingness by various parts of the TV supply chain to oblige on both of these accounts.
"Panel makers have been investing heavily in LED chip makers or have been developing their own internal technologies in order to take advantage of what they believe LED-backlit TVs bring to the table: differentiation, innovation, low power consumption, and of course the potential to reap the benefits of higher revenues," said Riddhi Patel, principal analyst for TV systems at iSupply.
Looking beyond next year, iSupply says LED-backlit LCD TVs in the 40-inch or larger category will explode to 112.1 million units in 2013, by then claiming 83.2 percent of the market. By comparison, large screen LED-backlit LCD TVs claim just 6 percent of the market currently.
Most vows to sport a thinner frame don't begin until everyone starts making out their New Year's resolutions, but LG is already off and running with what it claims is the world's thinnest LCD TV.
Not that the company's previous ultra-thin LCD was flabby, but at just 2.6mm (0.1 inches) thick, LG's new 42-inch model is a full 50 percent thinner than its predecessor. It also one-ups the model it's replacing by incorporating an LED backlight system.
Other specs include full HD (1080p) with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. And as for weight? Just 4 kilograms, which converts to about 8.8 pounds.
No word yet on price or availability, though LG said it plans to display the ultra-thin set at CES next month.
Installing LED traffic lights may have sounded like a good idea when first proposed -- after all, LEDs consume 90 percent less energy than the incandescent bulbs being replaced -- but some city planners who made the switch are now wishing they could take a mulligan. Why? Apparently the bulbs just don't burn hot enough to melt snow and can become covered in a storm.
"I've never had to put up with this in the past," said Duane Kassens, a driver from West Bend who got into an accident because he couldn't see the lights. "The police officer told me the new lights weren't melting the snow. How is that safe?"
The simple answer is, it's not safe. More than just a paper problem, snow-covered traffic lights have already been blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death. During a storm in April, 34-year-old Lisa Richter saw she had a green light and made a left turn. But a driver coming from the opposite direction didn't realize the stoplight was obscured by snow and ended up ramming into Richter's vehicle, fatally injuring her.
Several states are testing out possible solutions, including weather shields, adding heating elements, and coating lights with water-repellent substances.
Sources from panel makers say there's a shortage of LCD monitors, a problem they attribute to monitor makers and brand vendors having lower-than-usual panel inventory levels, news and rumor site DigiTimes reports.
The sources note that panel makers were expecting a low fourth quarter and took to reducing output, but are now being caught off guard by a flurry of orders now that panel prices have dropped below cost levels.
A panel shortage doesn't bode well for the mobile market, which is expected to ship a ton of notebooks going into 2010. This has notebook makers scrambling to secure LED supplies as they compete with LCD TV makers for inventory. LED-backlit LCD TV shipments are expected to increase six-fold to more than 30 million units in 2010, with LED-backlit notebooks expected to account for 80 percent of the 160 million notebooks (not counting netbooks) to be shipped next year.
There's slender, and then there's Samsung's disgustingly thin 40-inch LED TV panel measuring just 3.9mm thick, or a third the size of the company's previous panel. We say "disgusting" only because some of us are still bitter over dropping a couple grand on a bulky rear-projection earlier in the decade.
The super-slim backlit LED display boasts a 120Hz refresh rate, full HD resolution support, and a 5000:1 contrast ratio. It's also the world's thinnest LCD panel, measuring 7mm slimmer than Samsung's full production LED TV panel and about 45mm thinner than conventional LCD displays. Prior to today, LG held the title with its 5.9mm LED TV.
So when and where can you buy one? Good question - Samsung hasn't released the 3.9mm panel yet, but according to Akihabaranews.com, the company hopes to do so very soon.
The team behind this project consists of researchers from institutions in the US, Singapore and China. The new LEDs, though fully inorganic, possess qualities associated with both organic and inorganic LEDs. "We wanted to see if we could use inorganic LEDs in ways that exploit some of the processing advantages of organic LEDs,” John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois, told the journal Science.
Is that a projector in your pocket, or a Nikon Coolpix S1000pj digital camera? Perhaps both, if the latest rumor turns out to be true.
According to NikonRumors.com, the Coolpix S1000jp will be the first digital camera with a built-in projector that allows users to project photos or movie clips onto any flat surface at up to 40 inches in size. In addition to an LED projector, the Coolpix will also include a projector stand, a multi-function remote control, and other goodies.
Other details remain sparse, although preliminary specs show the new digicam sporting an effective resolution of 12.1 megapixels, a 5x Zoom-Nikkor lens, and a 28mm (equivalent) wide-angle coverage.
Look for availability sometime this September at an as-yet unannounced price.
Though the new LCDs will utilize two to three times less lamps than their CCFL counterparts, they will offer superior brightness. Their superior watt output and use of fewer lamps make for a terrific energy-saving cocktail.