You may have heard the buzz about Prysm and its new “laser phosphor display” (LPD). The short take-away points on this story are (1) this is a new and different approach to flat screen displays, and (2) it is not likely to be a consumer product any time soon.
Here’s how the display works; an array of lasers behind the screen scans an image onto the screen. Where the laser light hits, it excites a colored phosphor which then emits light. Using red, green, and blue phosphors, it can create a full-color image. The beam is steered using a spinning, multi-sided mirror, which is similar to how a laser printer works. The end result is that you have a display that is functionally similar to a standard cathode ray tube (CRT) except that lasers replace the electron guns, and you don’t need a large vacuum tube. The emissive nature of the display means that you should have almost no viewing angle limitations.
One fascinating aspect of this design is that it uses off the shelf components as much as possible. For example, the laser used for the display is a simple blue laser that is designed for use in a standard Blu-ray player. Another interesting detail is that the display could use as little as one-quarter the power required for a display of similar size using another technology such as LCD.
The new displays won’t be inexpensive, however, and as a result are likely to be targeted for commercial applications at the start. These include digital signage, large screens at sports venues, and public information displays in places such as airports. Initial designs call for 25″ diagonal modules with 320 by 240 pixel resolution. A 1080p-capable configuration would require 30 individual modules, making a 142″ diagonal display. Whether the display engine can ever be produced at a price that can compete with LCD and plasma for consumer applications remains to be seen.