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Home > News > The Year in Nanotech

December 28th, 2006

The Year in Nanotech

Nanotubes light up displays.

LCD computer monitors are quickly replacing old, bulky, cathode-ray-tube (CRT) screens. But CRTs are still prized for their excellent color rendition, wide viewing angles, and fast response time. These features are now coming to the flat screen in the form of CRT-like field-emission displays, which, rather than using an electron gun a foot and a half behind the screen, light up pixels with millions of electron emitters placed within millimeters of the screen. In one version, developed by Canon and Toshiba, nanoscale gaps in a thin film emit electrons. Motorola uses carefully spaced carbon nanotubes. Field-emission displays have been around for years, but the nanotech is making them potentially less expensive, and thus competitive with other display technology. (See "High-Definition Carbon Nanotube TVs.") Nanotech is enabling other types of displays as well. MIT spinoff QD Vision, of Watertown, MA, is developing ultrathin and potentially flexible displays based on nanoscale semiconductor crystals called quantum dots. These would require much less energy than LCDs and feature more-vivid colors. (See "Nanocrystal Displays.") Meanwhile, so-called electronic ink developed at MIT is starting to appear in commercial products, such as Sony's electronic book reader and a low-cost cell phone from Motorola. (See "A Good Read" and "Motorola's Dumb Phone.")


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