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Tohoku University Research Project, Japan

Key Data

A national project to develop advanced low-power flat panel displays was launched with a new facility at Tohoku University, completed in March 2004. The fab is located at the New Industry Creation Hatchery Center (NICHe) of Tohoku University in Sendai City (Japan).

The two-story building has a total footprint of approximately 9,500m². A 2,000m² clean room has a ceiling height between 3.5m and 4.0m. The Center is developing LCDs with micro- and nano-structures. A major research effort will be to reduce the cost of large-area (above 30in) high-definition flat TV sets.


Tohoku University has a number of advanced research projects, including several with universities in Japan's Aomori region.

The university is researching high-speed LCD displays that can show ultra-sharp moving images using the same display method used by CRTs (the impulse method). The initial target is a fast response rate by conducting OCB (Optically Compensated Birefringence) mode analysis and optimum device design. Tohoku is studying response speeds of various liquid crystal modes in theory and experiment, with OCB mode in particular showing extremely fast responses.

New structures and new production methods for a thin-film transistor substrate are promising low-cost high-definition displays. Tohoku has been studying Thin-Film Transistors (TFTs) made of transparent channel semiconductors like ZnO. These are of great technological importance, because their insensitivity to visible light makes for simple device structures.

Several demonstrations on ZnO TFT have achieved respectable field effect mobilities. In December 2004, a Japanese team led by the Institute for Materials Research at the university announced it had successfully developed the world's first blue Light-Emitting Diode (LED) made with low-cost zinc oxide.

Another project is to produce high performance, reflective LCDs with ultra low power consumption. Here, a field-sequential color display can lower the power consumption of the backlight by eliminating color filters.

Longer-term research includes using polar organic nanocrystals for displays. These crystals can be dispersed in a medium and have a permanent dipole that can be oriented using an electric field. Such displays show both crystal and liquid properties and, not being an ordinary Liquid Crystal, form a new type of "Liquid-and-Crystals" system. The crystals are reversibly oriented in the dispersed liquid by applying a DC or AC electric field. Research is looking at contrast ratios from the changes of absorbance, which depend on crystal size, strength of electric-field, frequency of AC electric field and polarimetric properties of the probe light.


The New Industry Creation Hatchery Center of Tohoku University was set up in 1998 to help develop new technologies and industries. Except for general operation expenditure, the research center's operations are financed exclusively using public grants and endorsements. Tohoku Technoarch, Inc. is supporting the patenting processes, distributions and operations of intellectual assets held by the university professors.

The NICHe main building and the Fluctuation Free Facility (FFF) for New Information Industry were completed in February 2000 and January 2002 respectively. The Hatchery Square was dedicated in September 2002. Now in full-scale operation, NICHe develops technology independently and serves as a bridge between academia and business.

The Center has set up two departments to aid with industrial collaboration. The Liaison Office for Development (LOD) proposes strategic studies, coordinates researchers’ activities, brings up competent researchers, provides liaison opportunities between industries and academia, and puts the university's study results to practical use. The Industry Creation Section (ICS) promotes project research pursued by leading individual researchers. Studies include advanced materials, devices, infrastructures of information and communications, energies, urban development, material systems, environments, life societies and biotechnologies for future generations.

The project was located at Sendai City because of the easy collaboration with Tohoku University, and easy accessibility to neighboring high-tech industries. The city has acted as an international gateway to Tohoku region and has a number of long-term business creation projects. These include the formation of a hi-tech cluster and an IT avenue, and an Ecological City project that aims to convert the existing industrial structure to an 'eco-friendly' one.