MEMS displays outdo LED, OLED counterparts

Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc. recently took the wraps off its first multicolor displays at the Society for Information Display conference, simultaneously revealing the first customer application for the displays.

The initial versions of the company's Mirasol MEMS displays have snagged eight designs wins over the past year; three of them in cellphone handsets, despite being monochrome. Based on a movable membrane technology called interferometric modulation, the displays are reflective devices that offer two advantages over LEDs and OLEDs: they consume very little power and are readable under outdoor ambient lighting conditions.

The new line of colorful displays includes 0.9-inch, 2.1-inch and 3.3-inch diagonal devices. The 0.9-inch, with a 128 x 96-pixel format and miniscule 9mW power diet, has been chosen by Freestyle Audio for its next-generation waterproof, shockproof MP3 players. Freestyle's market consists of music enthusiasts who are involved in outdoor sports such as swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, snowboarding, rafting, kayaking, recreational bicycling, running and hiking.

The new Freestyle devices will be submersible. "With regard to their display's outdoor readability, you would not want a surfer to cup his hand to read the display while he's being chased by a shark," quipped Jim Cathey, QMT VP of business development.

The monochrome Mirasol displays are manufactured primarily for Qualcomm by Prime View International in Taiwan, and last month Qualcomm announced collaboration with Taiwan's Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co. Ltd to establish a new Taiwan factory for its next-generation displays, also known as multicolor displays.

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