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No more crystal rubbing

IBM breakthrough rubs out LCD problems

Scientists at IBM have found a new way to align crystal molecules inside flat-panel LCDs (liquid crystal displays), which will provide higher screen quality as well as large savings for LCD manufacturers.

IBM said it will begin full production of LCD screens using the new technique by the end of this year, and may license the patented technology to other manufacturers.

The principle - atomic beam alignment - will replace an effect first discovered 95 years ago, when it was noted that rubbing a polymer substrate with a velvet cloth caused liquid crystals deposited on the substrate to align with the rubbed traces.

Without alignment of the crystals useable LCDs cannot be built, so all LCD manufacturers have been forced to use the rubbing technique for the last 20 years to build notebook computer and mobile phone displays.

Replacing rubbing by the non-contact atomic beam method has been the most asked-for scientific improvement in the LCD manufacturing world, according to IBM. Among other disadvantages, the rubbing process is not completely understood scientifically, making it difficult to improve the technology or solve difficulties, IBM said.


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