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SmartVIZ explores new visualisation technologies with micro LEDs


German project funds Osram, ASM AMICRA and Fraunhofer IISB to develop brighter, more robust and more efficient displays in cars

A new project between Osram, ASM AMICRA and Fraunhofer IISB is exploring the principles of high-resolution visualisation solutions using µLEDs (micro LEDs) inautomotive interior applications. Called SmartVIZ, it began in November 2018 and is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy. It is expected to complete in October 2021 when an initial demonstrator will be presented.

There is still no standard definition for the term µLED, only a loose guideline for the opto chip’s dimension to include edge lengths smaller than 100 µm. Since µLED technology can produce extremely high luminance in a wide dynamic range, it can play a key role for future megatrends such as augmented reality applications.

Imaging devices based on direct emitting µLED pixels are considered a disruptive development in the visualisation market and have the potential to sideline technologies such as LCD or OLED. These rather conventional technologies are constrained by their fundamental limits in energy efficiency, contrast, luminance, functionality and other associated restrictions.

Over the next two and a half years, the SmartVIZ research project aims to provide the basis for future transparent, high-resolution, direct-emitting visualisation solutions using µLED technologies.

ASM AMICRA brings in-depth knowledge of micro assembly of photonic components to the project. The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB specialises in power electronics and technologies for producing semiconductor devices.

Hubert Halbritter, SmartVIZ project leader at Osram Opto Semiconductors, described his company’s role, “as a project partner with in-depth experience in micro-pixel imaging components that will research efficient, high-luminance pixels. Along with our partners, we aim to gain technology leadership in one of the key future technology markets.”

The work packages will focus on three key technologies. First, the design of efficient µLED light sources, second, their handling on sub-component level and third, the final assembly. Red, green and blue µLED structures will perform as efficient high-luminance image pixels. Implementation of such concepts and applications requires in-depth studies of the underlying physical principles that are in-part entirely different than today’s macro LED chips.

The project will also conduct research addressing the component integration of µLEDs using a novel approach for transparent and flexible image encoders. Transparent substrates based on indium gallium zinc oxide thin-film transistors (IGZO TFTs) will be the researchers’ focus for controlling the individual pixels. This approach allows for quasi-transparent surfaces, which can be filled with content only if the µLEDs are switched to active. Employing such an active matrix backplane for the driver electronics allows image rendering with µLEDs to produce visualisation scenarios with ultra-high resolution.

Another work package will target processing concepts to enable rapid transfer of large quantities of µLED chips from a source wafer to the backplane driver electronics via automated parallel assembly. Key requirement here is a positioning accuracy of around 1.5 µm. Researching accurate transfer methods for such small chips (edge length smaller than 40 µm) will require entirely new technological approaches, which will be addressed within the project.

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