University of Dundee

Television and phone screen technology

Every time you look at your smartphone or your flat screen television you are seeing something that was made possible by work done at Dundee. The technology that made the ubiquitous LCD screen possible can be traced back to a former jute shed at the university, which in the 1970s and 80s became the world centre for pioneering research in electronics.

Led by Professors Walter Spear and Peter LeComber, they were fascinated by the potential of materials like solidified rare gases to act as conductors for electrical charge and their attention was drawn to thin film amorphous silicon. Together with their students, they developed new techniques that were summarised in a breakthrough scientific paper in 1975, where they demonstrated that dramatic changes in conductivity were possible. They followed that with another world first when the amorphous silicon thin film transistor was announced.

This was demonstrated in the active matrix liquid crystal display made jointly at RSRE (the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment) in Malvern. This device is found in virtually every notebook display and mobile phone screen in the world and forms the basis of the multibillion dollar market in flat panel displays.

Further reading