Coming Soon to a Wrist Near You: MicroLED Displays

Apple and others expect bright and efficient, microLEDs to extend the life of your smart-watch battery

3 min read
Photo: Plessey
Bright Light: This transparent microLED display from Plessey Semiconductors appears bright even against ambient light.
Photo: Plessey

The race for the next great display technology may be nearing the finish line. British chipmaker Plessey Semiconductors claims it will be the first to market with a microLED display—a screen in which each pixel is made from bright, efficient gallium nitride–based LEDs. The company plans to begin selling a monochrome display in the first half of 2018. But Plessey is, in fact, a latecomer to a crowded field that includes big names like Apple, Facebook, and cash-caffeinated startups around the world.

They’re all chasing a display that offers orders of magnitude more brightness and double or triple the efficiency of today’s technologies. Though it’s difficult to see microLEDs being practical for screens much bigger than smartphones, there are plenty of smaller displays that desperately need brightness and efficiency, especially for smart watches and augmented-reality systems.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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