LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology has a long history. It is far beyond our imagination for this term appearing only in the last two decades.
There are 4 main Periods:
Liquid Crystal Substance(1988-1967)
As early as 1888, Friedrich Reinitzer, an Austrian botanist, discovered liquid crystals. This substance has two melting points: one at which the crystals melt to be cloudy liquid and another to be clear. Moreover, it has color generation properties.
In 1889, Otto Lehmann, a Germany Physicist, named this substance the term “liquid crystal”, meaning it has both liquid and solid properties.
In 1911, Charles Mauguin, University of Paris, discovered the unique alignment liquid crystal material adopts on various surfaces. He placed thin layers of liquid crystals between plates in his scientific experiments. This idea is the base physical structure of LCDs.
In 1922, Georges Friedel, classified liquid crystal structures: smectic, nematic, and cholesteric in France.
In 1927, Vsevolod Frederiks, a Russian/Soviet physicist, devised the Frederiks transition, the essential effect of all LCD technology. The elastic constants of liquid crystalline polymers can be measured in terms of the Frederiks transitions under the presence of a magnetic or electric field.
In 1929, Zocher and Birstein in Germany first studied more effects of magnetic and electric fields on liquid crystals.
In 1936, Barnett Levin and Nyman Levin, Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in England, get the first patent on a liquid crystal light valve. It means that the liquid crystal can be used as an electrically switched light valve.
In 1959, Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs invented MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor), which can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals by changing conductivity with the amount of applied voltage.
In 1962, Paul Weimer developed the first thin film transistor (TFT) at RCA’s David Sarnoff Research Center. TFT technology is widely used in LCD industry these days. We call them TFT LCDs.
In 1962, George Gray, University of Hull in England, published the first book on liquid crystal structure and properties.
In 1963, Richard Williams of of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) reported the formation of domains in a nematic liquid crystal under electrical excitation. These liquid crystals have electro-optical effects that can be controlled through an applied voltage.
In 1965, George Heilmeier, Louis Zanoni, and Lucian Barton built the first liquid crystal display based on what Heilmeier called the “Dynamic Scattering Effect.” This was immediately recognized as a possible path to flat panel television.
In 1966, Joseph Castellano and Joel Goldmacher developed the first liquid crystal materials that operated at or below room temperature. Before the test cells made in 1965 used materials that required high temperature operation.
In 1967, a team of engineers including Bernard Lechner, Frank Marlowe, Edward Nester, and Juri Tults, devised the first LCD to operate at television rates using discrete MOS transistors.
Summary about this Period
In 1988, Friedrich Reinitzer discovered liquid crystals. Since then, with the help of science, physicists, chemists, and engineers studied more and more about this substance. Different physical characteristics of it were discovered: two melting points, dynamic scattering effect, electro-optic effect, temperature effect, piezoelectric effect, chemical effect and radiation effect.
Moreover, different related technologies were demonstrated like MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor), TFT (thin film transistor), new liquid crystals materials. Finally, the world’s first LCD arrived; the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) demonstrated the first dynamic scattering liquid crystal display (DS-LCD).
DC-LCD(Dynamic scattering liquid crystal display) (1968-1972)
In 1968-1970, Radio Corporation of America (RCA) contributed some outstanding results on LCD displays technology. It developed the first LCDs based on DSM (dynamic scattering mode) , built the first optical storage LCD using a mixture of cholesteric and nematic liquid crystals, developed the first color LCDs using a tri-layer concept, built the first LCD using a co-planar electrode structure for in-plane switching(IPS), built the first LCD digital clock, the first LCD digital test meter, the first LCD calculator display, and the first electronic window shade.
RCA announced that its researchers developed a new display technology based on liquid crystals that may lead to a flat panel television in the future. The result sparked a worldwide effort to further develop LCDs.
In 1969, James Fergason began to demonstrate the electrical activation of a twisted-nematic structure, and published a paper describing the effect for a color display next year.
In 1970, engineers of Optel Corporation built the first LCD digital watch with a dynamic scattering LCD. It may be the first consumer LCD product in the market.
In 1971, Sharp Corporation developed a prototype compact desk-top calculator using a dynamic scattering LCD and began to develop the first truly portable hand held calculator.
In 1972, Wolfgang Helfrich and Martin Schadt from Hoffmann La Roche in Switzerland built the first fully functional twisted-nematic(TN) LCD. The twisted-nematic LCD’s advantages, the low voltage and power consumption, led it past dynamic scattering to be the choice for the LCD device.
In 1972, Sun Lu and Derek Jones at Riker-Maxson in New York built the first digital watch using the twisted-nematic(TN) technology.
In 1972, George Gray, John Nash, and Kenneth Harrison synthesized the first cyanobiphenyl liquid crystal compounds and mixtures. One of the most widely used materials in early LCD manufacturing and did not require hermetic sealing.
In 1972, E. Peter Raynes improved materials and processes of twisted-nematic(TN) LCDs, which greatly increased manufacturing efficiency and display quality.
Summary about this Period
In 1968, G.H. Heilmeier of Radio Corporation of America (RCA) discovered the dynamic scattering phenomenon of liquid crystal. From 1971 to 1972, this company developed the world’s first dynamic scattering liquid crystal display (DS-LCD), built the first optical storage LCD, the first color LCD, the first LCD digital clock, the first LCD digital test meter, the first LCD calculator display, and the first electronic window shade.
Because the ion motion in dynamic scattering easily destroys liquid crystal molecules, DS-LCD was quickly replaced with TN-LCD.
TN-LCD (Twisted nematic LCD) (1972-1984)
In 1973, T. Peter Brody, Fan Luo, and their colleagues at Westinghouse Research Laboratories built the first AMLCD(active matrix LCD) using cadmium selenide TFT(thin-film transistors).
In 1973-1977, Dietrich Demus leading a group developed cyanophenylcyclohexane liquid crystal esters that improved the LCD calculator displays performance.
Ludwig Pohl, Rudolf Eidenshink and their members at E. Merck developed non-esters cyanophenylcyclohexane liquid crystals. These new materials were more stable and widely used in TFT(Thin Film Transistor) LCDs.
In 1979, Peter Le Comber, Walter Spear with Anthony Hughes discovered that hydrogenated amorphous silicon (Alpha-Si:H) thin-film transistors were suitable to drive LCDs in an active matrix. This was the major breakthrough in LCD television and computer displays technology.
In 1980, Noel Clark and Sven Lagerwall in Goteborg, Sweden built the first ferroelectric LCD (FLCD), which was conceived of by Robert Meyer in 1975.
In 1983, Colin Waters, V. Brimmell, and Peter Raynes at RSRE in England demonstrated a super twisted-nematic, Guest Host LCD in 1983.
In 1983, the flat panel television arrived. Shinji Morozumi and his colleagues in Japan, developed the world’s first commercial color LCD TV with a 2-inch TN LCD. It was an AM(active matrix) polycrystalline Si TFTs(thin-film transistors) LCD.
This was a major milestone in the development of LCDs and started the drive toward larger screen displays with high information content.
Summary about this Period
In 1972, Wolfgang Helfrich and Martin Schadt in Switzerland built the first fully functional twisted-nematic(TN) LCD. In the same year, Sun Lu and Derek Jones in New York built the first digital watch using TN-LCDs. E. Peter Raynes improved materials and processes of twisted-nematic(TN) LCDs, which greatly increased manufacturing efficiency and display quality. Because of the low cost, TN-LCD was produced in large quantities in the 1970s and 1980s, mainly used for segment digital displays and simple character displays.
STN-LCD(Super twisted nematic LCD) (1985-1990)
In 1985, Terry Scheffer and Jürgen Nehring at Brown Boveri built the first STN(super twisted-nematic), guest host LCDs.
In 1988, Sharp Laboratories in Japan built the world’s first defect-free 14-inch color AMLCD using amorphous Si TFTs.
In 1988, IBM and Toshiba jointly built a 14.3-inch color active matrix LCD, also using amorphous Si TFTs.
Summary about this Period
In 1985, Terry Scheffer and Jürgen Nehring discovered the super twisted birefringence effect and invented the super-twisted-nematic LCD (STN-LCD). Compared with TN-LCD, STN-LCD greatly improved the display capacity and viewing angle. As STN-LCD has the high resolution, wide viewing angle and high contrast, it was be widely used in notebooks displays with high information content, graphic processors and other office, communication devices.
TFT-LCD( Thin film transistor liquid crystal display) (since 1990)
In 1990, notebook computers began to use TFT-LCD.
In 1992, Hitachi began to build In-plane Switching (IPS) and Super IPS LCD devices.
1996: Samsung developed the optical patterning technique that enables multi-domain LCD. Multi-domain and In Plane Switching subsequently remain the dominant LCD designs through 2006.
In 1998, TFT-LCD entered the market of desktop displays. On the basis of the rapid development of active matrix LCD, LCD technology has entered the stage of high quality LCD display. With the further development of technology, the production cost of TFT-LCD has decreased significantly.
In 2007, the image quality of LCD televisions surpassed the image quality of cathode-ray-tube-based (CRT) TVs.
In the fourth quarter of 2007, LCD televisions surpassed CRT TVs in worldwide sales for the first time.
Summary about this Period
In 1988, Sharp developed the world’s first defect-free 14-inch color active matrix TFT-LCD. A major industry was created during the 1990s as high volume manufacturing of large screen displays began in Japan and Korea. Taiwan and China soon entered the industry.
With the further development of technology, the production cost of TFT-LCD has decreased significantly, and finally exceeded the market share of CRT. After entering the 21st century, with the development of TFT-LCD production line from the 8.5 generation line to the 10 generation line, large screen LCD TV has become more and more popular, fundamentally changing the face of the display industry.
Today, halfway through the first decade of the 21stcentury, the global TFT-LCD display panel market attained a value of USD 164 billion in 2020, driven by the growth in the demand for consumer electronics.