STARS-Proposal:Liquid Crystal Displays, 1962-2011


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Hirohisa Kawamoto


1962 Richard Williams discovers liquid crystal “Williams Domains”
1964 George Heilmeier, Louis Zanoni, and Lucian Barton invent Dynamic Scattering Mode (DSM) LCD
1970 Wolfgang Helfrich and Martin Schadt invent Twisted-Nematic (TN) LCD
1971 Optel makes and sells DSM LCD digital wristwatches
1971 Bernard Lechner conceives Thin-Film Transistor Active-Matrix (TFT AM) Drive
1972 George Gray and Royal Radar Establishment synthesize cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals
1973 Sharp markets DSM LCD pocket calculators
1973 Suwa Seiko markets TN mode digital wristwatch
1973 Peter Brody, Fang Luo, and colleagues demonstrate a 36-square-inch TFT-AM LCD
1988 Isamu Washizuka and colleagues demonstrate 14-inch, TFT-AM, color LCD video monitor
1989 Merck and Chisso synthesize fluorinated liquid crystals for TFT-AM displays
1992 Gunter Bauer and colleagues propose In-Plane Switching (IPS) mode
1997 Multidomain Vertical Alignment (MVA) mode is developed
1998 Patterned Vertical Alignment (PVA) mode is developed
2005 Volume of LCD sales surpasses that of cathode-ray tubes (CRTs)
2009 Sharp builds 10th-Generation (3.13 m x 2.68 m mother glass) LCD factory


This paper reviews the developments from 1962 when the LCD was first proposed within RCA, to 1988, when Sharp demonstrated a 14-inch, full-color, full-motion display, launching the LCD TV industry. The article then describes the progress made in the last 25 years, such as VA and IPS operation modes, LED back lighting, terminally fluorinated liquid-crystals, and more efficient manufacturing technology for ever-larger displays.

Liquid-crystal displays (LCD) comprise a unique blend of chemistry, physics, and engineering that required the efforts of researchers around the world. They were conceived in 1962 at RCA Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey, and RCA demonstrated them publicly in 1968. Two years later the twisted-nematic mode of operation was invented in Switzerland and Ohio, and in 1972 UK researchers synthesized cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals. Together these inventions enabled the commercialization of LCDs. During the 1970s and early 1980s manufacturers supplied small LCDs for portable products such as digital watches and pocket calculators.

Development of larger and more colorful displays proceeded incrementally until 1988. Then Sharp Corporation made a significant advance, demonstrating a 14-inch, full-color, full-motion display using an active-matrix TFT (thin-film-transistor) array. Observing this, Japanese leaders of the display industry were convinced that LCDs would replace CRTs, and committed to making LCDs a major industry in Japan. Large-scale displays were first supplied for personal computers and then to television receivers. In the second half of 1990s, the industry started migrating to Korea and Taiwan as researchers developed techniques to improve the display and manufacture of LCDs of increasing dimensions. In 2005, the LCD industry surpassed the CRT industry in production volume and in 2011 achieved a production value over 100 billion dollars. The technology’s growth has had numerous social and cultural effects, easing the acceptance of cell and smart phones, enabling the development of portable computers, and changing the design of homes as the panel TV replaced the traditional television receiver box.


References of Historical Significance

G. H. Heilmeier, L. A. Zanoni, and L. A. Barton. 1968. “Dynamic Scattering: A New Electrooptic Effect in Certain Classes of Nematic Liquid Crystals”. Proc. IEEE 56 no. 7 (July 1968), p. 1162–71.

M. Schadt and W. Helfrich. 1971. “Voltage-Dependent Optical Activity of a Twisted Nematic Liquid Crystal”. Appl. Phys. Lett. 18 no. 4 (Feb. 1971), p. 127–8.

B. J. Lechner, F. J. Marlowe, E. O. Nester, and J. Tults. 1971. “Liquid Crystal Matrix Displays”. Proc. IEEE 59 no. 11 (Nov. 1971), p. 1566–79.

T. P. Brody, F. C. Luo, D. H. Davies, and E. W. Greenwich. 1975. “Operational Characteristics of a 6 in. by 6 in., TFT Matrix Array, Liquid Crystal Display”. 1974 SID Symp Dig. Tech. Papers, Los Angeles, CA, p. 166.

T. Nagayasu, T. Oketani, T. Hirobe, H. Kato, S. Mizushima, H. Take, K. Yano, M. Hijikigawa, and I. Washizuka.. 1988. “A 14-in-Diagonal Full-Color a-Si TFT LCD”. Proc. Int. Display Research Conf., San Diego, CA, Oct. 1988, p. 56–8.

Y. Koike, S. Kataoka, T. Sasaki, H. Chida, H. Tsuda, A. Takeda, K. Ohmuro, T. Sasabayashi, and K. Okamoto. 1997. “A Vertically Aligned LCD Providing Super-high Image Quality”. IDW ‘97, p. 159.

K. H. Kim, K. Lee, S. B. Park, J. K. Song, S. Kim, and J. H. Souk. 1998. “Domain Divided Vertical Alignment Mode with Optimized Fringe Field Effect”. Proc. Asia Display ’98, p. 383.

R. Kiefer, B. Weber, F. Windscheid, and G. Bauer. 1992. “Plane Switching of Nematic Liquid Crystals”. Proc. Japan Display ’92, p. 547.

H. J. Plach, G.Weber, and B. Rieger. 1990. “Liquid Crystal Mixtures for Active Matrix Displays using New Terminally Fluorinated Compounds”. Proc. SID, Las Vegas, May 1990, p. 91-4.

Y. Goto and T. Ogawa. 1989. “Cyclohexane Derivative and Liquid Crystal Composition Containing the Same”. U.S. Patent 4,820,443.

Y. T. Yang, T. K. Woo, S. Y. Choi, T. Takehara, Y. Nishimura, and J. White. 2007. “The Latest Plasma-Enhanced Chemical-Vapor Deposition Technology for Large-Size Processing”. IEEE J. of Display Tech. 3, no. 4 (Dec. 2007), p. 386-91.

References for Further Reading

Joseph A. Castellano. 2005. Liquid Gold: The Story of Liquid Crystal Displays and the Creation of an Industry. (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing).

Yutaka Ishii. 2007. “The World of Liquid-Crystal Display TVs—Past, Present, and Future”. Display Technology 3, no. 4, p. 351-60.

Hirohisa Kawamoto. 2002. “The History of Liquid-Crystal Display and its Industry”. Proc. IEEE 90, no. 4 (April 2002), p. 460-500.

About the Author(s)

Hirohisa Kawamoto (S’69–M’70–SM’83–F’92–LF’04) received his B.S. from Kyoto University and the Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He worked for Panasonic, RCA Laboratories, Sony America, and Sharp, and has served on the faculty at Berkeley and Nara Institute of Science and Technology. Kawamoto was the chair of the first steering committee of IEEE Journal of Display Technology in 2005 and Japanese delegate to the Electro-Technical Commission in Geneva. Founder of the Princeton Community Japanese Language School, he is now vice president of the Plant High-Technology Institute in Nara. Kawamoto has received the IEEE Centennial and Third Millennium Medals.