LED Backlights Gaining

One detail that came up in the dust-up over the California Energy Commission’s new requirements that limit the energy consumption of flat panel TVs is that some existing models already meet the more stringent 2013 limits. And according to DisplaySearch, all but one of these low-power HDTVs were LCDs with LED backlights.

LEDs are more efficient than the cold cathode fluorescent (CCFL) tubes used by most of the LCD TVs and computer monitors on the market today. In addition to being less efficient, the CCFL backlights also contain small amounts of mercury, making them hazardous to the environment. Notebook computers have already started switching over to LED backlights in order to save weight (less battery storage is required) and reduce size (LED backlights can take up less space than CCFL alternatives). LED backlights still command a significant price premium in HDTVs, but are popular because they make extremely thin sets possible, along with providing better color performance. And according to a DisplaySearch report, LED backlights are moving into desktop computer monitors as well; they represented less than 2% of the products in the third quarter of this year, but are expected to grow to nearly one fourth of the market in the third quarter of 2010.

Delta Electronics, a leading producer of CCFL backlights, has announced that it will be exiting the business in March of next year. It already has developed an LED backlight business and foresees that it will grow rapidly.

Delta’s announcement is particulary interesting because it shows that the shift to solid state LED backlights for all sorts of LCD panel products is having an impact on the supply chain. As the demand increases, we hope to see improvements in the production of the LEDs themselves which should help lower the costs and improve performance even further.