Communications chip house Qualcomm is to acquire Iridigm Display, paying approximately $170 million in cash for the 86% of the company that it does not already own.
Founded in 1996 by two MIT researchers, Iridigm’s has patented what it calls its iMoD, a technology based on a Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) structure combined with thin film optics that delivers display image quality that can withstand extreme temperatures and be viewed in any environment, including bright sunlight.
The iMoD element that forms the heart of any display is a simple MEMS (micro-electromechanical system) device composed of two conductive plates. One is a thin film stack on a glass substrate, the other is a metallic membrane suspended over it. There is a gap between the two that is filled with air.
The iMoD element has two stable states. When no voltage is applied, the plates are separated, and light hitting the substrate is reflected. When a small voltage is applied, the plates are pulled together by electrostatic attraction and the light is absorbed, turning the element black.
iMoD elements are typically 25-60 microns on a side (400-1,000 dots per inch). Therefore, many iMoD elements are ganged and driven together as a pixel, or sub-pixel in a colour display.
The colour of the iMoD element is determined by the size of the gap between the plates. The blue iMoD has the smallest gap and the red has the largest.
To create a flat panel display, a large array of iMoD elements are fabricated in the desired format (i.e. 5″ full color VGA) and packaged. Finally, driver chips are attached at the edge to complete the display.
The company claims that an iMoD display should cost significantly less to manufacture than a comparable liquid crystal display (LCD) because it requires fewer processing steps to produce, thus enabling advanced multimedia capabilities on all types of mobile devices.
Upon completion of the million dollar deal, which is still subject to regulatory approval and certain other closing conditions, Iridigm will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm.