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MIT engineers design nanoscale LEDs for AR and VR systems

With the discovery of vertical, full-color, tiny LEDs, MIT researchers have just revealed the development of a new method for creating crisper, defect-free screens.

The minimum size that LEDs can be while still operating successfully has been reached. This limitation is most apparent in close-range displays, such as AR and VR systems, where inadequate pixel density leads to a screen door effect in which viewers see stripes in the space between pixels.

Instead of arranging red, green, and blue LEDs (light-emitting diodes) side-by-side in a horizontal patchwork, a team at MIT has created a method for stacking the diodes to produce multi-coloured vertical pixels.

According to MIT, each stacked pixel can provide the whole commercial colour spectrum and is around 4 microns wide (for context, a human hair ranges anywhere from 17 to 181 microns). The micro-LEDs or minuscule pixels may be packed to a density of 5,000 pixels per inch.

MIT Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jeehwan Kim said this is the tiniest micro-LED pixel with the greatest pixel density ever recorded in the scientific literature. the team will demonstrate that, for higher-resolution screens with a lower footprint, vertical pixelation is the way to go.

Jiho Shin, a postdoc in Kim’s lab, said that there is now a limit to how realistic virtual reality objects may seem. Our vertical micro-LEDs provide entirely immersive encounters that make it difficult to tell the difference between the real and virtual worlds.

The journal Nature has published the team’s conclusions. Co-authors of the paper with Kim and Shin include researchers from MIT, Kim’s group members, Sejong University, Georgia Tech Europe, and several other educational facilities in the US, Korea, and France.

The dominant digital screen technology at the moment is organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), according to MIT, which mentioned this in a blog post about the announcement. The diodes, however, may deteriorate with time, leaving displays with persistent burn-in characteristics. The ability of the innovation to reduce the size of the diodes is also coming to an end, which limits their resolution and clarity.

Inorganic micro-LEDs, which are diodes that are about one-hundredth of normal LED sizes and are constructed of inorganic, single-crystalline semiconducting materials, are being investigated by MIT researchers for use in the next generation of display technology. According to MIT, micro-LEDs might outperform OLEDs and use less energy while lasting longer.

The production of micro-LEDs, however, is a challenge since the precise alignment of small pixels requires a very high degree of microscopic precision. If pixels are determined to be out of position, whole devices must be discarded.

The MIT team has developed a method of fabricating micro-LEDs that may be less wasteful and doesn’t need exact, pixel-by-pixel alignment in order to overcome this problem. In contrast to the typical horizontal pixel layout, the technology uses a completely distinct vertical LED approach.

According to Shin, each of the R, G, and B pixels in traditional screens is placed laterally, which restricts how tiny each pixel may be created. In principle, they might decrease the pixel area by a third because they are stacking all three pixels in a vertical manner.

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