SmartViz Project to Explore Innovative µLED Display Technologies

Initiated in November 2018 and scheduled to last two and a half years, the SmartViz research project aims to “explore the principles and provide the basis for future transparent, high resolution, direct emitting visualization solutions using microLED technologies.”

The project was funded by the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy. One of the incentives for the project is to realize the potential of microLEDs to be a brighter, more robust and more efficient lighting solution than current generation LCDs or OLEDs.

The project will conduct research addressing “the component integration of microLEDs using a novel approach for transparent and flexible image encoders.” The researchers will focus on the use of indium gallium zinc oxide thin film transistors (IGZO TFTs) as the basis of the substrates that control the individual pixels.This approach allows for quasi-transparent surfaces which produce imagery only when the microLEDs are switched to active. In addition, the approach can enable ultra-high resolution displays.

Given the potential for displays with these characteristics, a particular focus of the SmartViz project is automotive display applications. An example of the type of display to be developed by the SmartVIZ project is illustrated in concept form in the figure below.

Conceptual illustration of the type of display to be developed by the SmartVIZ project when integrated into an automobile window.

A press release by the consortium explains that “red, green and blue microLED image pixels can produce extremely high luminance in a wide dynamic range but that 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.” Given this as background, the consortium has outlined the so-called work packages that will constitute the SmartViz project. The packages focus on three key technologies.

  • The design of efficient microLED light sources.
  • Handling on the sub-component level.
  • Final assembly.

The work will specifically include the development of processing concepts to “enable rapid transfer of large numbers of microLED chips from a source wafer to the backplane driver electronics by means of automated parallel assembly.”One of the key requirements identified for this process is a positioning accuracy of around 1.5 ?m for chips having an edge length smaller than 40 ?m.

The members of the consortium, their relevant qualifications with respect to the project and their expected contributions to the project are as follows:

OSRAM Opto Semiconductors GmbH (Regensburg, Germany) is represented as a leader in photonics. The company is expected to bring in-depth experience related to micro-pixel imaging components to the tasks of researching and developing efficient, high luminance pixels.

ASM AMICRA Microtechnologies GmbH (Regensburg, Germany) is described as expert in the field of production automation, especially related to photonic applications. The company will bring its expertise to the task of micro assembly of photonic components.

Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB (Erlangen, Germany) specializes in power electronics and technologies for producing semiconductor devices. IISB will design and manufacture transparent electronic circuits for their final installation in micro-pixel visualization components.

The SmartVIZ project is expected to complete in October 2021 when an initial demonstrator will be presented. -Arthur Berman

OSRAM Opto Semiconductors, Simon Thaler, [email protected], +49-941-850-1693