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Top LCD maker bets research on LED backlights

Top LCD maker bets research on LED backlights

AU Optronics, the world's third largest LCD screen maker, is betting its research dollars on LED technology.

AU Optronics, the world's third largest maker of LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, is aiming most of its research dollars at LED (light emitting diode) technology for its sharper contrasts and brighter colors, an executive at the company said.

The Taiwanese company is already providing 23-inch LCD screens with LED backlights to a major Japanese customer for the LCD-TV market. Backlighting helps create contrast on LCD screens by illuminating the background so that the foreground appears sharper.

"We have worked very diligently with LED makers on these television displays," said Po-Yen Lu, an executive vice president at AU, during a meeting with news media.

Although LED backlighting costs a bit more than mainstream backlighting, Lu said its better contrast and motion picture color quality has won it a following among some customers. The backlight technology probably won't become widespread until the company is able to double its production capacity and slash the price per screen by half, he said.

The company is also working with OLED (organic LED) screens for smaller devices, mainly mobile phones and digital cameras. The company is already marketing 2-inch and 2.4-inch OLED screens for mobile phones, as well as a 2-inch screen for digital still cameras.

AU has no current plans to research carbon nanotubes because it will take a long time for the technology to become commercialized, Lu said.

OLED technology competes with LCD technology in many markets, but mainly in smaller devices since OLED screens use less power, enabling batteries to last longer.

During the second quarter, shipments of OLED panels grew 82 percent compared to last year to 14.2 million units and revenue hit US$124.8 million, according to market researcher DisplaySearch. The popularity of MP3 players is boosting OLEDs the most, the company said.

By contrast, LCD maintained its huge lead on other display technologies in the second quarter, as LCD monitor revenue alone rose to US$7.7 billion in the second quarter, DisplaySearch said.

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