Holographic Diffusers that Can Efficiently and
|Project Duration and Cost:||
|Status Report of the Completed Project:||View Report|
Conventional light-diffusing screens, such as movie screens or the frosted glass used in laptop computer displays, send light in all directions. This reduces picture brightness, wastes up to 90 percent of the viewable light, and wastes energy. Developing new diffusers, however, is costly, inefficient, and requires a longer period to recoup the investment than traditional sources of capital are willing to tolerate. In 1994, NIST's Advanced Technology Program (ATP) co-funded research with Physical Optics Corporation of Torrance, CA to overcome the technical barriers to cost-effective production of a diffuser screen that uses beam-shaping technology to provide an intense, evenly distributed beam of light that is more than twice as efficient as previous diffusers.
|Technical and Economic Impacts
The economic impact of this project has been significant. Just two years after the project was complete, Physical Optics was able to attract significant sources of venture capital. As Rick Shie, manager at Physical Optics explains it, “None of this would have happened without ATP.” Spurred by ATP's investment, Physical Optics was able to demonstrate the high-risk technology, and upon completion of the ATP project, built and dedicated a $14 million production facility for the holographic diffuser. By 2003, this factory could produce 100,000 parts per month. This has resulted in a great deal of growth for Physical Optics, and it has translated into significant employment gains as well. From the start of the project in 1993 to 2004, Physical Optics has been able to more than double its staff, despite downturns in the economy.
The innovations resulting from this project have not just benefited Physical Optics. There has been a tremendous cascade effect of the spillovers into other organizations and industries. For example, Physical Optics’s partners have had to create separate divisions within their own organizations to properly utilize and market the light diffuser technology. The end customer benefits, in addition to the environment, are these new screens lower the power consumption of computer displays up to 90 percent.
The ATP-funded light diffuser technology is being applied in such new and diverse markets as improved flashlights for aircraft inspection, enhanced blood analyzers, heat-resistant directed lighting, automotive dashboard display panels, semiconductor mask homogenizers, credit card security products, data-storage, and bar-code readers. Perhaps its biggest impact has been in color cell phone displays, where this technology is currently utilized in 45 percent of color cell phone displays worldwide.
Date created: June
Last updated: August 21, 2006
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