Diamond HDTVs?

Okay, I’ve written in the past about diamonds in HDTVs, but they have been cosmetic features, intended to differentiate the model with a little bling. And yes, diamonds are pure carbon crystals, so in a sense you could say that using carbon nanotubes in a display technology would be a little like using diamonds. But I’m here to talk about using real diamonds to create the picture on the screen.

Field emitter displays — FEDs — have been pursued by many companies for a dozen years or more. The concept is compellingly simple. If you want to have a thin screen that gives you a picture as bright and colorful as a CRT picture tube, then all you need to do is replace the big electron guns with microscopic electron emitters behind each individual pixel. Companies have tried using all sorts of semiconductor emitters — Canon’s stunning SED screen is a variation on this theme — and some are trying to use carbon nanotubes as emitters. These solutions all have production or performance or lifetime issues.

A group of researchers at the University of Bristol have come up with a new approach. They have found a way to use diamond dust as an electron emitter source. When processed with lithium, the nano-diamond crystals become highly efficient emitters. Simply coat a substrate with the special powder and you’re in business. And you don’t have to isolate the diamond dust from oxygen, which destroys carbon nanotubes.

Now, this may sound like a display that only The Donald could afford, but you may be surprised. Industrial diamonds cost less than $1 per carat, and the researchers estimate that the emitter material could be produced for just $.20 per square meter. That’s about enough to coat a 50″ HDTV screen.

We’ve seen lots of enthusiastic and optimistic claims about FEDs in the past, but if these folks are truly onto something here, we could quickly be made to forget SED and OLED and other novel technologies, and we could see an affordable challenge to the reigning plasma and LCD flat panel HDTV technologies.