4 January 2022

Ultimate micro-displays and visible light communication devices being developed by Sheffield researchers

A revolutionary new way of making micro-displays that is set to bring the next generation of smartphones, smartwatches and VR headsets with higher resolution, speed and efficiency, is being developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield.

Professor Tao Wang standing next to one of the extensive device characterisation and testing facilities in the photoluminescence and electroluminescence laboratories at the University of Sheffield
One of the extensive device characterisation and testing facilities in the photoluminescence and electroluminescence laboratories at the University of Sheffield.
  • University of Sheffield-led research team is developing the technology needed for ultimate micro-displays and visible light communication devices
  • Micro-displays are the screens used in devices such as smartphones, smartwatches and VR headsets
  • Visible light communication devices use light sources such as LEDs to transmit data - they have the potential to offer much greater bandwidth and efficiency than WiFi or 5G and can be used where radio frequency emissions are controlled or do not work
  • Project has already attracted the support of global tech companies such as Microsoft, Sony and Plessey

A revolutionary new way of making micro-displays that is set to bring the next generation of smartphones, smartwatches and VR headsets with higher resolution, speed and efficiency, is being developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield.

In a major new project led by Professor Tao Wang from the University’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, in collaboration with Harvard and MIT, researchers are using micro laser diodes - microLDs - in order to develop ultimate micro-display and visible light communication devices.

Micro-displays are currently used in smartphones, smartwatches, augmented reality and virtual reality devices. Visible light communication technology has the potential to offer much greater bandwidth and efficiency than WiFi or 5G and can be used where radio frequency emissions are controlled or do not work such as in aircraft, hospitals, underwater and hazardous environments.

A key component of both these technologies are III-nitride visible light-emitting diodes (LEDs) but using laser diodes (LDs) instead has the potential to achieve devices with even higher resolution, speed and efficiency.

In the £1.9 million project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Sheffield-led team is developing a revolutionary new way of integrating microscale semiconductor light sources and transistors on a single chip.

Professor Tao Wang, Professor in Advanced Opto-Electronics at the University of Sheffield, said: “The significantly increasing demands on micro displays are pushing the requirements for ultra-high resolution and ultra-high efficiency. Several fundamental challenges with fabrication and electrical driving methods cannot be met by existing technologies therefore a disruptive technology needs to be developed. Unlike any existing photonics and electronics fabrication approaches, our research will explore a completely different approach to monolithically integrate microscale laser diodes (μLDs) and high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) on a single chip, where each μLD is electrically driven by individual HEMTs.”

The global micro-display market is predicted to reach $4.2 billion by 2025 and the visible light communication market is expected to exceed $8 billion by 2030. The Sheffield-led project is already being supported by global tech companies such as Microsoft, Sony and Plessey.

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