Sharp smartband LCD uses 1,000 times less power

The small panel could help power wearables for far longer than conventional displays

Sharp is developing a "color memory LCD panel" for wearables that has dramatically lower power consumption, allowing smartbands, smartwatches and other devices with small displays to be used far longer.

The prototype panel, described as being in the 1-inch class size, uses 1,000 times less power than conventional LCDs in mobile devices and is slated to go into mass production in Japan next spring, a Sharp spokeswoman said.

It's able to sip tiny amounts of power because its design uses two savings approaches -- doing away with the energy-draining backlight and using semiconductor memory.

Instead of a backlight, it makes use of ambient light and reflector layers inside pixels to illuminate what's on the display.

While that means it can't be used in extremely low-light situations, it could be implemented in fitness bands that are often worn outside in the daytime.

The other feature is memory chips embedded in the panel that can temporarily store images, drastically reducing the amount of electricity used during the transfer of data.

"Sharp has combined reflective LCD technology and LTPS (low-temperature poly-silicon) technology into the newly developed color memory LCD," Sharp's Miyuki Nakayama wrote in an email. "The feature is a color display (eight colors) with ultra-low power consumption 1,000 times lower than conventional LCDs."

Sharp is in talks with mobile device makers regarding the panel, Nakayama added without elaborating.

LTPS technology has been a research focus for iPhone display chip supplier Renesas SP Drivers, which was recently acquired by Synaptics. Sharp had owned a 25 percent stake in Renesas when it was a joint venture mostly owned by Renesas Electronics.

In a tie-up with Qualcomm subsidiary Pixtronix, Sharp has also been developing its MEMS-IGZO power-efficient displays for smartphones and tablets that could help devices run twice as long as those with conventional LCDs.

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