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The Promise of SED Displays

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Toshiba and Canon have partnered to create a new and promising species of HDTV (High Definition Television). Using Canon’s expertise in electron technology and Toshiba’s vast experience in CRT’s (Cathode Ray Tubes) and semiconductors, they hope to have some of the new flat panel displays on the market by late next year. This innovative idea is based on the reliable cathode ray tube systems that have been the backbone of television for decades.

What is radically different now is that the gun responsible for shooting electrons at the screen is replaced by as many electron emitters as the screen has groups of pixels—also known as picture elements. While Plasma HDTV’s and LCD’s are successfully and firmly entrenched technologies and are selling millions of units, SED technology over the next few years has the potential for an enormous impact on the HDTV market.

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Throwing away the electron gun allows this design to be much thinner. Instead of televisions that need a depth of three feet for the tube, the SED technology is more in the area of three inches thick. Also, the new sets run much cooler, because they don’t use heat to generate the electrons. And some recent tests in the longevity of SED screens indicate that a 60,000 hour lifespan will not be a problem. In its current configuration, SED works by giving a 10-volt charge to an electrode deposited on one side of a glass film. The electric charge accelerates the electrons across a very tiny gap, causing the florescent material to eject photons, creating the visual display on the flat panel. Since this design is strongly based on the existing CRT technology, SED is in some, non-trivial ways, an already proven technology.

The three letter acronym SED stands for the exotic sounding Surface conduction Electron emitter Display. Toshiba’s hopes for a stunning picture are founded in the extremely high contrast ratios, long life of the system, true colors and thinness of the display. While Toshiba and Canon are banking on the incredible vividness and groundbreaking contrast of light and shadows with this new venture, we will have to wait at least one more year for the commercial release of this new product. Undoubtedly, they will have the newest prototype at next year’s consumer electronics show, slated to be in Las Vegas.

Currently, it is forecast that a 55-inch SED TV would retail in the ten thousand dollar range. That may be one of the main reasons on the delay of this technology reaching the consumer market. Toshiba is partnering with everyone it seems. They have a new initiative with Panasonic (Matsushita Electric) to research, develop and produce huge numbers of Plasma televisions and now this venture with Canon to create the new line of SED’s. They are everywhere at once and poised to be very successful in a number of areas.

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