Plasma Displays for an HDTV World

Plasma display panels (PDPs) are arguably the most revolutionary new video-monitor technology to come along in the last few years. First-generation models are exciting, but they're known to have limitations. However, a recent announcement from Fujitsu Limited should move the plasma approach closer to many living rooms next year.

One of the problems with the current crop of available PDPs is that they do not reveal the full high-resolution potential of some HDTV formats. Most PDPs are limited to approximately 852 horizontal by 480 vertical pixels, which is not nearly enough for the 1080-line version of the digital HDTV specification, which displays 1920x1080 pixels. (A Pioneer prototype can display 1280x760.)

Current PDPs take whatever signal they are fed and convert it to their (sometimes lower) screen resolutions. The image is then rendered neither progressive nor interlaced, but flashed on the screen all at once 60 times per second. A PDP can display an HDTV picture, but not with full resolution. (See a comprehensive discussion and review of currently available PDPs in the September 1998 issue of SGHT.)

In an effort to solve the resolution problem, Fujitsu announced on August 25 that it has developed a new technology called Alternate Lighting of Surfaces (ALiS) that increases the resolution of PDPs intended for HDTV. The ALiS method incorporates a new PDP panel structure and drive method that displays up to 3.15 million individual-color dots at 1024x1024 pixels (each with a pitch of 0.9 mm x 0.51 mm) on a 42" display with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

According to Fujitsu, ALiS increases screen brightness to a luminous intensity of 500 candelas per square meter (white-light peak), which is almost twice the value exhibited by current models. The company has applied for more than 10 patents related to the new PDP structure and driver technology.

Fujitsu displayed a 42" prototype PDP for HDTV incorporating the ALiS technology at the Fujitsu Electronic Device Solutions '98 exhibition last week in Japan. The company expects to begin manufacturing the first products as an OEM supplier in April 1999. In addition, the company claims that existing mass-production and panel processes can still be used due to the simple display-cell structure inherent in the new technology. Retail pricing has yet to be announced, but Fujitsu expects the panels to be available worldwide a short time after April as manufacturers bring the units to market.