Liquid Crystal on Silicon

What Does Liquid Crystal on Silicon Mean?

Liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) is a reflective microdisplay technology that is based on a silicon backplate. It is a combination of digital light processing (DLP) and liquid crystal display (LCD) projection technologies as it is reflective, but instead of using mirrors as in DLP, it uses liquid crystals that are applied on a reflective silicon backplate. Light is reflected off the backplate, while the liquid crystals open and close to modulate it.


Techopedia Explains Liquid Crystal on Silicon

LCOS microdisplay is constructed with a liquid crystal layer sandwiched between a thin-film transistor (TFT) and a silicon semiconductor with a reflective coating, hence the name. Like in DLP technology, light passing through a polarizing layer is reflected, but in the case of LCOS, it uses a reflective semiconductor instead of mirrors, while the liquid crystals act as gates that control the amount of light that passes and reaches the reflective surface, modulating the light and creating the image. As with LCD technology, LCOS modulates light in the RGB channel, so there are still three separate subpixels of red, green and blue.

Parts of an LCOS microdisplay starting from the top:

  • Glass cover — Seals and protects the system.
  • Transparent electrode — Completes the circuit with the liquid crystal and the silicon.
  • Alignment layer — Aligns the liquid crystal in order for them to accurately direct light.
  • Liquid crystal — Controls the amount of light that reaches and leaves the reflective layer.
  • Reflective coating/layer — Reflects light that creates the picture.
  • Silicon or chip — Controls the liquid crystal in a one-to-one ratio between pixel and transistor using data from the display driver.
  • Printed circuit board — Carries instructions from the television or computer into the devices.

LCOS offers the following advantages:

  • High brightness while maintaining a contrast ratio of 2,000:1
  • High light efficiency as 70-80% of light is reflected
  • High-quality image as there is no “screen door” between pixels
  • High heat efficiency

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.