Taiwan researchers seek to perfect LED backlights, MEMS

A three-year project with Oxford Instruments would bring down costs and boost performance

A government-funded research institute in Taiwan have kicked off a three-year effort to develop cheaper, longer-lasting LED backlights in mobile phones, notebook PCs and television sets, a project manager said on Friday.

Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) established a research center late last month with U.K.-based developer Oxford Instruments to study high-brightness LED (light emitting diode) screens.

Findings along the way should make backlights cheaper for manufacturers and more resilient for consumers, said Lin Chin-yuan, micro-systems technology center manager with the research institute. LED backlights are normally used in LCD (liquid crystal display) screens. The technology is replacing CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamps) as backlights in products from mobile phones to LCD TVs because LEDs are brighter and more energy efficient.

The 23-person research team will look at a packaging process and the micro-structure technology behind high-brightness LEDs to come up with "new and improved technology," the institute said in a statement. The institute would not say how much the project would cost.

Lin said he was unable to estimate the cost savings or new lifespan of backlights following the research results, which will be made available to Taiwan product designers.

Work to date by Taiwan's research institute has helped the island's numerous high-tech hardware manufacturers stay competitive with rivals in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere. The research institute develops new technologies, files patents and licenses the discoveries cheaply to Taiwanese companies. It brought in Oxford Instruments because of the company's experience with LED, Lin said.

Over the same three years, the institute and Oxford Instruments will look into perfecting micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), the sensor technology behind wireless motion-based gaming machines such as the Wii, Lin said. That research comes as the market for motion-sensing game machines grows.

MEMS research results should lower the manufacturer cost of sensors while increasing their performance, Lin said.

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