A thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) is a variant of liquid crystal display (LCD) which uses thin-film transistor (TFT) technology to improve image quality (e.g., addressability, contrast). TFT LCD is one type of active matrix LCD, though all LCD-screens are based on TFT active matrix addressing. TFT LCDs are used in television sets, computer monitors, mobile phones, handheld video game systems, personal digital assistants, navigation systems, projectors, etc.
A diagram of the pixel layout
Small liquid crystal displays as used in calculators and other devices have direct driven image elements—a voltage can be applied across one segment without interfering with other segments of the display. This is impractical for a large display with a large number of picture elements (pixels), since it would require millions of connections—top and bottom connections for each one of the three colors (red, green and blue) of every pixel. To avoid this issue, the pixels are addressed in rows and columns which reduce the connection count from millions to thousands. If all the pixels in one row are driven with a positive voltage and all the pixels in one column are driven with a negative voltage, then the pixel at the intersection has the largest applied voltage and is switched. The problem with this solution is that all the pixels in the same column see a fraction of the applied voltage as do all the pixels in the same row, so although they are not switched completely, they do tend to darken. The solution to the problem is to supply each pixel with its own transistor switch which allows each pixel to be individually controlled. The low leakage current of the transistor prevents the charge applied to the pixel from leaking away between refreshes to the display image. Each pixel is a small capacitor with a layer of insulating liquid crystal sandwiched between transparent conductive ITO layers.
The circuit layout of a TFT-LCD is very similar to that of a DRAM memory. However, rather than fabricating the transistors from silicon formed into a crystalline wafer, they are made from a thin film of silicon deposited on a glass panel. Transistors take up only a small fraction of the area of each pixel; the rest of the silicon film is etched away to allow light to pass through.
The silicon layer for TFT-LCDs is typically deposited using the PECVD process from a silane gas precursor to produce an amorphous silicon film. Polycrystalline silicon (frequently LTPS, low-temperature poly-Si) is sometimes used in displays requiring higher TFT performance. Examples include high-resolution displays, high-frequency displays or displays where performing some data processing on the display itself is desirable. Amorphous silicon-based TFTs have the lowest performance, polycrystalline silicon TFTs have higher performance (notably mobility), and single-crystal silicon transistors are the best performers.