CNTs are Carbon Nanotubes, a new technology that allows flatpanel screens to be constructed from what is essentially an array of thousands of tiny CRTs, each CRT representing a pixel or so.
A friend (thanks Mike) pointed me towards this company which has been experimenting in the area. Click on Demonstrations on the left to see a nifty little animated demo of their current prototype (and be sure to read the caveats as well as to why the quality isn’t wonderful yet).
Why is this stuff of interest? Primarily because the potential exists to make absolutely massive screens using this technology. Plasma and LCD screens are limited in size, because they rely on a single sheet of semiconductors to make the whole screen – the technology to seamlessly stitch together multiple panels to make a bigger screen doesn’t exist.
For those screen types, cost increases rapidly as the size gets larger, because it becomes more difficult to get screens with an acceptably high number of working pixels.
With CNTs, this is no longer an issue – you simply manufacture buckets of tiny screens (say 4″ x 5″) and stitch them together to make as big a display as you like. Tiny screens means much higher yield which in turn translates to lower prices. Plus, as a bonus, you get all the benefits of a normal CRT (bright picture, fast refresh, etc.) without the drawbacks of massive weight and depth.
Probably another year or two to go before these hit your local electronics superstore, but it can only be a matter of time.
(On the other hand, whatever happened to bubble memory?)