Computer/Embedded Technology


Sunlight-readable transflective LCDs now possible

2 November 2005 Computer/Embedded Technology

A major problem for LCDs has been the difficulty in using them in bright conditions. A typical transmissive LCD uses a backlight lamp with brightness of 300 nit (candela per m². This is fine for indoor use but close to useless in outdoor applications.

One solution has been to increase the brightness of the backlight to 1000 nit or higher. This allows some functionality in bright conditions but in reality one has to compete with the brightness of the sun, which is never easy. These high brightness LCDs are expensive, bulky and have cooling issues. Another option has been to use reflective LCDs. These have no backlight and fully reflect the ambient light, much like a calculator does. Full colour, high resolution versions of this technology suitable for use in a PC environment are virtually non-existent.

A mixture between transmissive (with backlight) and reflective (no backlight), called 'transflective', is available. This passes a high percentage of the backlight through, while also reflecting some of the ambient light thereby trying to give the best of both worlds. These LCDs can be used in the dark as well as in high-brightness situations. Once again, the problem has been that there are nearly no LCDs based on this technology available.

This has now been addressed by a company called Trio. This company can modify an existing transmissive LCD by adding a paper-thin film between the LCD's backlight and the front glass. This film reflects light from the one side (outside) and allows light through from the other side (backlight) much like a one-way mirror does. This gives a perfect transflective LCD capable of working in the dark as well as in high-brightness conditions without adding any of the drawbacks from traditional high-brightness LCDs.

Although Trio cannot modify every available LCD due to internal mechanical design constraints, it does have a substantial list of LCDs ranging from 16 cm to 48 cm that they are able to offer the modification for. Centurion Micro Electronics has received some samples of the transflective LCDs from Trio.



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