What Is a Field Emission Display?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A field emission display (FED) is a flat panel screen that combines elements of liquid crystal display (LCD) and cathode ray tube (CRT) technology. It retains the sharp, clear, high quality image associated with CRT screens, but has the narrower profile and lighter weight of an LCD system. This technology is also very energy efficient, using far less energy than comparable screens of either style. Several manufacturers have investments in the technology, which entered development in the late 1990s in competition with other kinds of flat panel displays.

A number of flat panel displays are available to consumers.
A number of flat panel displays are available to consumers.

The design involves the use of field electron emissions to generate colors. A grid of electron guns excites electrons to stimulate the production of emissions in various ranges of the visual spectrum, visible on the front of the screen. This is similar to the way a CRT works, except that the technology has a slim profile like an LCD. Researchers work to combine the best of both technologies in field emission display designs to generate crisp images with low energy use and a smaller footprint.

Such displays can potentially be quite large, although increased size can add considerably to the cost of a field emission display. The system is also vulnerable to errors in manufacturing or mishandling during transit and installation, both of which can potentially cause dead pixels. With high resolution, these may not be immediately apparent, as the surrounding pixels can make up the difference. Consumers tend to demand very crisp image quality, which leads to high resolution in designs to meet their needs.

A number of flat panel displays are available to consumers, and field emission display technology lagged in development as other designs entered the market. This allowed developers of other products to refine their equipment to address consumer complaints and compensate for competitors while FED technology was still in the prototype phase. Some manufacturers with initial investments in this design chose to move on to other projects in response to the success of competing designs.

Manufacturers have not abandoned field emission display research and development entirely. Examples can be seen at some electronics shows, especially those with a focus on innovative new design and projected designs that have not entered development for immediate release. Researchers with an interest in display screen technology can work in private labs as well as government agencies to develop FED and other technologies that may add efficiency, improve image quality, and offer other advantages over other screens on the market.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Terrificli -- That field emission stuff might be a big deal one day, but it has a couple of things going against it. For one thing, the big players are no longer researching it (some minor companies are, but the chances that you've heard of those businesses are slim to none).

Also, there are UHDTV technologies that are in production now. The field emission proponents, then, might be late to the party if they show up at all.

That's not saying it's not great technology. It just might not be the most practical out there for today's consumer market.


A number of people have given this technology up for dead, but it is still being researched and may be the next big thing as ultra high definition television (UHDTV) technology develops. The suggestion is that field emission displays last a long time, can be adapted to handle extremely high resolutions and can be cost effective.

Will we see the development of those displays take off in the UHDTV market? Only time will tell, but it does appear to be a promising technology.

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