Developments to Watch
A NEW LCD COULD MEAN SLIMMER, LIGHTER LAPTOPS
To boost visibility, most laptop computers have a light behind the screen. But these backlit displays gobble power. That's why portable computers need heavy, bulky batteries that must be recharged every few hours. Now, slimmer laptops may well be in the offing, thanks to a new breed of liquid-crystal display (LCD) developed at Kent State University's Liquid Crystals Institute in Kent, Ohio. It relies only on reflected light, yet approaches the quality of backlit models.
LCD screens consist of thousands of tiny liquid crystals, each of which can be switched on or off to form halftone images. In backlit screens, the crystals display words by either blocking the backside light or letting it shine through. In the new display, the crystals are made from a material that is super-efficient at either reflecting incident light or "absorbing" it by scattering it in all directions. And each crystal stays bright or dark until the display changes. Backlit LCDs drain more battery power because even a static image must be constantly "refreshed," or recreated. A color version is in the works.EDITED BY OTIS PORT