Apple Patent Reveals that Future iDevices may Adopt New Energy Efficient Radioluminescent or Photoluminescent Backlights
On January 22, 2015, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their work on improving the technology related to iDevice backlight units. Apple's invention covers new backlight technology that could potentially allow for high power efficiency while avoiding excessive battery drain. While this isn't an exciting whiz-bang invention, saving power can be realistically appreciated by everyone using any Apple MacBook or iDevice.
Apple Invents a Display that uses a Radioluminescent Backlight Unit
Apple notes in their patent application that their invention covers a backlight unit that may include radioluminescent backlight structures. The radioluminescent backlight structures include an ionizing radiation source that produces beta particles or other ionizing radiation. The radioluminescent backlight structures also include a phosphor that produces light in response to being struck by the ionizing radiation. An encapsulating structure such as a glass enclosure may be used to enclose the ionizing radiation source and the phosphor.
The light produced by the phosphor passes through liquid crystal display layers and serves as backlight for the display. Photoluminescent material and light-emitting diodes may also be used to produce backlight for the display. For example, the display backlight may have a light guide plate that is provided with light from the radioluminescent light source along one of its edges and that is provided with light from an array of light-emitting diodes along another of its edges.
Lens structures may be used to concentrate light from the radioluminescent light source into edges of the light guide plate. The lens structures may be integrated into the enclosure of the backlight structures and may include separate lenses.
Apple further notes that the display may have a first area that is provided with backlight from the radioluminescent backlight structures such as a border region or other portion of the display that overlaps the radioluminescent backlight structures.
The display may also have a second area that is illuminated without backlight from any radioluminescent backlight structures. The second area may be illuminated by a light-emitting diode backlight unit or may be provided with an array of organic light-emitting diode pixels. Photoluminescent backlight structures may also be incorporated into a display having multiple types of backlight.
As shown in Apple's patent FIG. 6 below, display #14 may include backlight structures such as backlight unit 42 for producing backlight 44. The backlight unit may be a radioluminescent backlight unit.
Apple notes that the new radioluminescent backlight could apply to future MacBooks (laptop computer), a computer monitor containing an embedded computer, any iDevice (iPad/iPhone/iPod), the Apple Watch (smaller device such as a wristwatch device), a pendant device or other wearable or miniature device, a television, a computer display that does not contain an embedded computer, a gaming device, a navigation device, an embedded system such as a system in which electronic equipment with a display is mounted in a kiosk or automobile and beyond.
Depending on whether Apple's device is using an LCD or OLED display, Apple may employ an alternative backlight called a "Photoluminescent backlight" to provide backlight to portions of display that do not overlap radioluminescent backlight structures.
Apple notes that Photoluminescent backlight structures may also be used to provide backlight in displays that do not contain radioluminescent structures. For example, Photoluminescent backlight structures may be used to provide the sole source of backlight in a display or may be used as a light source in a hybrid backlight that contains multiple light sources (e.g., light-emitting diode light sources).
The display may contain a Photoluminescent light source, a radioluminescent light source, and a light-emitting diode light source, if desired. Photoluminescent backlight structures, radioluminescent backlight structures, and/or light-emitting diode backlight structures may also be used with other types of displays such as organic light-emitting diode displays.
Apple credits Jason Huey and Kevin Keeler as the inventors of patent application 20150022759 which was originally filed in Q3 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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