Sony Bets on FED

Not content with leading the way in commercial production of OLED TVs, Sony has also backed another novel techlogy: field-emitter displays, or FEDs. The concept behind this technology is simple. A traditional CRT vacuum picture tube uses three electron guns at the back of the tube to shoot electrons at the phosphors inside the front screen to create an image. An FED uses similar phosphors, but instead of one electron gun for each color of phosphors, it uses billions of electron emitters. Thousands of emitters are behind each phosphor dot, so you get a thin, flat panel with performance characteristics similar to the best features of a CRT.

Sony has nearly a 40% share in a company called Field Emission Technologies. The big news from last week is that the company is reportedly negotiation to buy Pioneer’s shuttered plasma manufacturing lines, with an eye towards using them for commercial production of FED TVs. Initially aimed at premium markets, such as medical and professional video production, the company plans to have capacity to make 10,000 26″ panels a month at the start.

There have been no pricing or production dates announced yet, and given the way target dates tend to slide with novel technologies (just look at Canon’s promises for its similar SED technology), it’s probably smart to stay mum for now. If Field Emission Technologies can in fact use plasma production lines to produce FEDs, this could well be the start of something big. LCDs are dominant now, but they are vulnerable to competition from something better, just as CRTs were when LCDs first came along.