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Mirasol display to see light of day by year end

Mirasol is based on the same principle that causes butterflies’ wings to shimmer

The Mirasol wonder display technology incubated by Qualcomm will finally get to see the light of day, with small scale commercialisation of the technology set to take place before the year is out.

Mirasol was developed by a firm called Iridigm, which was acquired by Qualcomm in 2004. The technology is pitched as a low power alternative display, which reflects ambient light back at the viewer to conserve energy. The technology is based on the same principle that causes butterflies’ wings to shimmer and works in both daylight and darkness.

The applications could be a game changer. Using less than a tenth of the energy consumed by a comparable LCD display, the expectation is that Mirasol will enable an environment in which the device screen never needs to power down, as they are today programmed to do in order to conserve battery life.

The problem is that since Qualcomm acquired the tech, it has never got out of the prototype stages because it’s too expensive for the mass market.

Yet something appears to have changed. Earlier this year the firm announced a partnership with Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to expand the manufacturing capacity to Mirasol displays in Taiwan with the construction of a new fabrication facility in Longtan. The initial phase of the announced facility is expected to result in an investment of up to $975m by Qualcomm.

This week, the firm confirmed that it is expecting commercialization before the end of 2011, with smaller volume products in non-US markets before the end of the year. These initial batches will be delivered by the pilot fabrication plant, which is a relatively small facility. Higher volumes will be in the offing around the time the new, much larger, fab comes online later in 2012.

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