March 20, 2006 10:32 AM PST

Carbon nanotube TV trials on horizon

Applied Nanotech has signed a letter of intent to enter negotiations for a trial on carbon nanotube TVs with Da Ling, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer.

Under the proposed terms, Da Ling will invest $10 million on a pilot manufacturing facility to make carbon nanotube TVs based on Applied's technology. In these TVs, nanotubes shoot electrons at a screen to create a picture. Functionally, they are similar to traditional CRT (cathode-ray tube) televisions, which still provide the best picture, but are slim, like LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions.

Trials could begin later this year or early next year, said Doug Baker, chief financial officer for Nano-Proprietary, which owns Applied. Full-scale commercial production could begin in two years. Applied demonstrated a prototype last year. Nonetheless, Applied and Da Ling still have to work out the final details of their relationship by June.

The idea for nano TVs has been around for a couple of years, but the price declines in plasmas and LCDs is making them slightly less attractive. Applied asserts that its TVs will sell for as low as $1,300 when they hit the market. Relative to the competition, that could be high or low, depending on when the nano TVs hit the shelves and how big their screens are.

Canon and Toshiba announced they would not be coming out with their SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter display) TVs, which are similar to Applied's nanotube televisions, until 2007, a delay that will let the two companies try to lower the manufacturing costs. Executives at Samsung, which has created nanotube TV prototypes, now tend to downplay the technology.

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