Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., began mass production of a 22-in. transparent LCD panel in March of this year, claiming it is the first company to do so. (Samsung showed a 46-in. transparent LCD prototype at Display Week in Seattle last year.) The panels do not have a mirror or other type of reflective material behind the LCD. Users can look right through them. For illumination, the panels use ambient light such as sunlight, which consequently reduces dependency on electricity for generating power. According to Samsung, the panels consume 90% less electricity compared to conventional LCD panels using backlight units. According to Bill Beaton, Senior Manager, TV/DID, Samsung LCD Business, "In most applications where sufficient ambient light is available, no backlight or additional lighting is required. When the ambient lighting is not sufficient, external lighting could be added to light the display."
Obviously, transparent LCDs are not for laptops or workstations. "What is special about them," says Jennifer Colegrove, a vice president with DisplaySearch, "is that they offer a new kind of functionality. They can be used for retail sales and advertising – in shop windows, for example. They are definitely "attention-getting" (Fig. 1). A watch or other object, for example, can be placed behind the display, and information about the watch overlaid on the display in front of the object. Samsung also suggests that corporations and schools could use the panels as interactive communication devices of some kind. Museum exhibits are another possibility.
The new panels come in two varieties, black-and-white or color. They have a contrast ratio of 500:1 with a WSXGA+ resolution of 1680 x 1050). Compared with conventional LCD panels that use a backlight unit (BLU) and have 5% transparency, Samsung's transparent LCD panel have transparency rates of over 20% for the black-and-white model and over 15% for the color model. They also incorporate the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and the Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface.
– Jenny Donelan
Fig. 1: Samsung's transparent LCD panel will allow retailers to place changing text and graphics in front of physical merchandise, such as these portable display devices.