The good news is that the plasma television you think will look just right in your den could soon cost a lot less than it does today. The bad news is that it won’t happen in time for the later matches in this edition of the cricket World Cup.
A researcher at Motorola’s research arm in Bangalore, which played a part in the development of the low-cost plasma TV, says the product should be available in the market in the next two years. By usual benchmarks of the time between a breakthrough discovery and its commercial launch, that’s fast.
The secret, says Kota Murali, a senior researcher at Motorola, is nanotechnology, a stream of materials science that involves working with very small particles (nano means one thousand millionth).
Murali claims that the television will not just be better and thinner than current plasma TVs, but cost around Rs20,000 for a 40” (diagonal screen size) model. In the international market, a plasma television of similar size currently retails for around $800-$1000. Prices in India are even higher because of tariffs.
The company, says Murali, has already developed a 5” prototype of the television. This, he adds, can be scaled up to 40”. “What we have managed to do is reduce the cost of materials, currently used in plasma televisions.”
All televisions employ cathode ray tubes (CRT) that look like guns and fire a beam of electrons on to a screen. The screen is covered with a chemical, which reacts when exposed to the beam of electrons. This process ends with a picture appearing on the screen.
Plasma televisions employ a similar technology, only, in this case, thousands of small guns shoot electrons on to specific parts of the screen. This is a much more efficient method and results in clearer pictures, but it costs more, too. The guns are delicate, and made from expensive materials.
Researchers at Motorola have managed to make these guns cheaper by replacing them with extremely small (nano) tubes of carbon.
The tubes can be, in a sense, painted on the display itself, which makes an already thin screen thinner.
Today’s plasma televisions have display screens that are about six inches thick. Murali says the new technology allows for the thickness to be reduced to an eighth of an inch, without any loss in the clarity of the picture.
The market for plasma televisions in India is set to grow, says R. Zutshi, deputy managing director, Samsung India. He estimates a market size of 4,00,000-5,00,000 units by 2010. In 2007, companies such as Samsung hope to sell 50,000 plasma televisions.
The effort to develop the new plasma television is one of Motorola’s earliest forays into nanotechnology.
Sources in the company who did not want to be identified say that talks with companies that would manufacture these televisions were at an advanced stage.