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Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 400.00K | Year: 2006

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop germanium-containing ferroelectric liquid crystals (Ge-FLC's), a fundamentally new class of LC materials that enable migration of microdisplays into camera and automotive applications with billion-dollar available display markets. Ge-FLC mesogens synthesized during Phase I demonstrated breakthrough layer shrinkage properties that will solve the longstanding bistability problem in FLC's, thereby raising the achievable brightness of FLC-based projection displays to commercially viable levels. Phase II research tasks include: (1) the synthesis and characterization of a library of approximately 100 new Ge-FLC compounds, (2) the formulation from this library of FLC mixtures engineered for three specific approaches to bistable switching, and (3) development of alignment layers conforming to the device physics requirements of the three bistable approaches. These tasks support the overall project objective of demonstrating robust engineering-prototype bistable FLC devices with characteristics appropriate for commercial microdisplay products. Commercially, the project furthers the emerging technology of silicon-based microdisplays with very large potential commercial impact. The company's previous success commercializing SBIR-funded technology into a rapidly-growing $40-million business provides a foundation for growth into billion-dollar markets for camera and automotive microdisplays enabled by the Phase II innovation. Success in these markets will generate outstanding returns for the company's shareholders, and will provide higher-performing, lower-cost electronic cameras and safer and more convenient automobiles to U.S. consumers

Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2006

Current helmet mounted display (HMD) image sources are CRT-based and suffer from multiple issues, including weight, safety and cost resulting from drive electronics and high voltage disconnect, and packaging. Currently available emissive and transmissive miniature flat panel displays do not provide a satisfactory alternative to the CRT image source; they suffer from one or more low brightness and low resolution. Current reflective LCOS display technology is unsatisfactory for HMD applications because complex and bulky illumination optics weight, packaging, and performance problems. We propose to solve these problems and make reflective LCOS displays attractive for HMD applications by developing novel illumination techniques. The techniques will lead to a high brightness, compact, lightweight image source. We will work with a leading avionics supplier to integrate the novel image source into a HMD and helmet, thus demonstrating the ability of the image source to provide a HMD with characteristics far superior to existing systems.

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.98K | Year: 2006

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project aims to test the feasibility of developing families of complex liquid crystal molecules that offer previously unobtainable material properties; advanced electro-optic capabilities in particular. For decades, predominant liquid crystal molecules have been variants on simple rod shapes. Radically new liquid crystal molecules (mesogens) have begun to appear in recent years, such as bent-core "banana" molecules and dimers, which exhibit novel and potentially valuable properties. This work will focus on fundamental questions of how dimers can be designed to possess the required liquid crystal phase sequences and what the general structure-function rules for these new molecules are. The objectives are to synthesize a series of readily accessible dimers, control their mesogenicity by the modification of tails and cores, construct "structure-property" relationships in this new type of mesogens, and find suitable alignment techniques. The ultimate anticipated benefits include the development of a new type of electro-optic (EO) materials that will surpass current organic competitors in EO strength and lifetime, and will surpass current commercial EO materials in EO performance, integrability, and low cost. Potential commercial applications include telecommunications (high-speed EO modulation (e.g. > 100GHz), M by N switches, free space communications beam steering, amplification), detection (LADAR beam steering, optical sensors), and optical information processing (spatial light modulators, holography, optical computing and storage).

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.97K | Year: 2006

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project aims to develop commercially practical bistable FLC displays. Ferroelectric liquid crystals (FLCs) attractively combine a high speed electro-optic effect with very low-power drive, but, absent bistability, suffer restrictions on operational duty cycle that limit achievable display brightness. Exciting results obtained recently with an organosiloxane FLC compound suggest that it overcomes smectic layer shrinkage and surface interaction problems that have until now foiled FLC bistability. The work proposed here seeks to show that this singular result can be extended to other related compounds, setting the stage for Phase II development of bistable FLC mixtures engineered to have fast switching with suitable switching angles over the broad temperature ranges needed for practical applications. Further, it seeks to show that deficiencies in aligning compounds of this type can be overcome to give improved contrast ratio. The Phase I effort includes synthesis and evaluation of new siloxane mesogen compounds; formulation of mixtures from new and existing compounds, and evaluation of conventional as well as novel alignment treatments. Fundamental scientific questions about liquid crystal phase behavior and surface interactions lie at the heart of the remarkable recent results which the proposed work will begin to answer. Commercially, bistable FLC devices will enable micro-projection displays utilizing new high-brightness LED and laser light sources. Micro-projectors deliver flat panel display functionality with higher performance and lower cost than conventional approaches such as AMLCDs. Initial applications include sunlight readable, reconfigurable automotive dashboard, entertainment, and navigation displays, a 15-million-unit, $100MM market. Ultimate success would include penetration of the multi-billion-dollar laptop computer, monitor, and television display markets. FLC bistability further enables high-performance write heads for emerging holographic data storage markets.

Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.81K | Year: 2006

This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase (STTR) I research project aims to test the feasibility of combining recent advances in the science and technology of ferroelectric liquid crystals with advances in nanoscale feature engineering (sputter rippling) to produce a new generation of displays and advanced electro-optic devices. Not only do the new liquid crystals offer novel, high performance displays, they would also enable heretofore impractical advances in optical data storage, optical beam steering, adaptive optics, and telecommunications. However, present day liquid crystal cell technology does not provide the conditions needed for proper operation of the new liquid crystals. Inorganic conducing surfaces formed through nanoscale engineering offer a solution to this problem. They also have the potential to displace decades-old cell technologies used in conventional liquid crystal products due to their greater uniformity and their compatibility with advanced manufacturing processes. The project will produce a variety of nanoscale surface topographies on inorganic conductive surfaces that are suitable for liquid crystals cells, and to test their ability to align liquid crystals. Cells made from the experimental surfaces will be tested to determine whether or not they produce the expected performance benefits. If successful, the proposed technology will enable high brightness microprojectors with performance superior to flat panel displays while being similar in form. It is expected the advantages to be especially compelling for automotive navigation and entertainment displays. These technical advances will also enable spatial light modulators for beam steering and adaptive optics, and holographic data storage (HDS) write heads capable of higher data rates and capable of correcting for HDS optical non-uniformities. The project will be exploring new territory in using sputter rippling to form anisotropic nanostructures on inorganic conducting surfaces such as indium-tin-oxide on glass, and aluminum on silicon (materials used in FLC microdisplays). This work will also advance knowledge of important liquid crystal-surface interaction forces, key to developing advanced electro-optic devices.

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