Microdisplays Boast a Sharper Image

Author: 
Bob Michaels

Ever since the earliest days of the medical x-ray, imaging techniques have played a crucial role in the diagnosis of diseases. But while imaging methods have advanced over the years, display technologies have not always kept pace. Seeking to turn this situation around, eMagin (Bellevue, WA) has developed a high-definition, 3-D microdisplay that provides users with an immersive-reality experience. This technology, the company hopes, will meet the demands of next-generation diagnostic and other medical device applications, enabling healthcare professionals to better visualize medical conditions.

Emagin microdisplay
A prototype version of the eMagin microdisplay produces full-stereo, 1920 x 1200 high-resolution images.

Based on widescreen ultraextended graphics array (WUXGA) technology, eMagin’s OLED-XLTM microdisplay offers the highest-quality imaging available for medical and scientific applications, according to Bruce Ridley, the company’s vice president of business development and special products. The key to achieving high-contrast resolution is the use of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which can turn each pixel completely black when it is not receiving data. This capability, Ridley adds, multiplies the contrast range typically found in LCD flat-panel displays by several orders of magnitude, resulting in a vibrant image that makes medical data easier to decipher by showing small contrast gradations.

“Our OLED displays consist of extremely thin organic layers sandwiched between an anode and cathode structure that produces light,” Ridley says. “Because these displays do not contain structures such as mirrors or collimators, we can design them so that very small pixels reside in proximity to one another, producing compact displays with high resolution.” WUXGA has the highest pixel density of any technology currently available, Ridley notes.

In OLED technology, every pixel is its own light source; the organic layers of the display essentially produce light when an electrical current excites them. “The resulting vibrant color and high contrast of our microdisplays represent a breakthrough in technology for medical devices because they enable doctors to better differentiate what they see,” Ridley explains. “And for mobile medical devices, OLED technology offers the lowest power requirement of any display technology, translating into longer battery life.”

Because of their high-resolution capability, eMagin’s OLED microdisplays are suitable for computer- and image-guided surgery, radiology, and ultrasound imaging applications. They can also be adapted to augment such vision applications as surgical simulators and mobile information systems. “Our microdisplays,” Ridley adds, “make immersive and portable high-resolution imagery possible in small or battery-operated devices.”