An Australian advance in nanotube technology paves the way for a completely new type of television and computer flat screen.
According to researchers Dr Liming Dai and Dr Shaoming Huang from CSIRO Molecular Science, the new flat screens will be longer lasting, more energy efficient and more convenient than current screens. There will also be the opportunity to make them both thinner and flexible.
The screens will use CSIRO's cutting edge research into a new form of carbon known as nanotubes.
Carbon nanotubes are arrangements of carbon atoms that are formed into tiny tubes about a millionth of a millimeter in diameter. They were discovered by a Japanese scientist in 1991. Various nanotubes, with or without encapsulated metals, can now be produced and dissimilar carbon nanotubes may be joined together, allowing them to form molecular wires with interesting electrical, magnetic, optical, and mechanical properties.
In screens they work as an intermediary, focussing electrons onto a surface where they react with a fluorescent material to produce light for picture displays.
"It has been a major challenge for researchers to get control of the way they form. In order to use nanotubes for panel displays it is important that the tubes are either aligned or formed into patterns," Dr Dai says.
"We have been able to take a lead in this research as we found ways to control the arrangement of the nanotubes."
The research was recognised at the recent Hannover Trade Fair, where CSIRO signed a $300,000 two-year collaborative research agreement with leading Austrian high technology company Electrovac to develop the new kind of screen for TV and computers.
Flat screen technology is expected to generate a multi-billion dollar market worldwide over the next few years.
CSIRO has the opportunity to share in it through its cooperative deal with Electrovac.
"CSIRO's carbon nanotube work is world class, and could well lead to exciting developments in flat screen technology," said Dr Hammel after the signing. "This technology is the subject of intensive R&D, especially in the USA, but we believe the Australian research is at the very forefront."
Electrovac was a pioneer in developing liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in the early 1970s, and Dr Hammel is keen for the company to re-enter this market with a new approach to flat screen technology. Electrovac employs 650 people in Austria, Germany and the USA and has a turnover of more than $110 million. It specialises in electronics and thermal management technologies, and in the development of new materials.
"Electrovac is a genuine player in the European and international electronics scene," says Dr Bob Frater. "This is the kind of collaboration we want and need, and it shows just how seriously the Europeans take Australian technology when it meets their needs."
Images available at: www.csiro.au/news/Nanotubes.html
More information: Doug.Gale@molsci.csiro.au