Site: Platan Scientific Production Corporation
Date Visited: October 29, 1993
Report Author: R.R. Rice
Dr. Henry D. Balandin
Dr. Alexander A. Kotlar
Dr. Vladimir Ulasjuk
Platan is located in Fryazino, Moscow Region, about 50 kilometers from Moscow. Platan is owned and operated by the State Committee of Defense Branches of Industry, not having yet been privatized, although the committee's policies in dealing with the West have certainly become more liberalized. This very large facility has about 2,000 employees, which is down from a peak of more than 6,000 before the collapse of the USSR. Platan appears to have been the premier producer of display components for the Soviet military.
A WTEC team consisting of Christopher Curtin and Zvi Yaniv visited Platan on Thursday, October 28, for more than one-half day. They were impressed with the scope of the work and size of the facility. (See Platan site report.) Dr. Robert Rice visited Platan alone on Friday, October 29, at the request of the Director-General, Dr. Vladimir Ulasjuk. McDonnell Douglas has obtained a quantoscope tube from Platan through a U.S. representative under an ARPA contract. Dr. Ulasjuk was briefing the Deputy Prime Minister that day on Platan programs, but broke away from the activities to have lunch.
The WTEC team's visits were still an unusual event in a facility obviously accustomed to tight security measures. The tour was intense, lasting from about 9:45 a.m. until well after dark, at about 7:30 p.m. The hosts were very cordial, answered every question asked, and did not appear inclined to withhold much information. Dr. Rice was allowed to take photographs, but unfortunately, his complicated Nikon failed to operate properly and the film was ruined.
Platan has a very wide range of display activities underway. The work involved both display systems and components for display systems. The display technologies at Platan include the following:
Platan is capable of manufacturing 100,000 to 1,000,000 specialized, high-end CRTs per year. The corporation is developing and marketing advanced CRT projectors that appear equal or superior to comparable systems produced in the West. The CRT capability includes a world-class phosphors development and production capability. Platan also produced the high-end CRTs used for Soviet military display.
Platan has pioneered the development of high-gain (10X) screens for CRT projection systems. These concave screens maintain a constant angle of reflection between the viewer and the projector over the entire field. One CRT demonstration system projecting on about a 3 m screen was spectacular, with a sharp, brilliant image, unlike any seen previously by the author. The penalty for the use of a high-gain screen is loss of brightness if the observer gets very far (>20 degrees) off-axis. Nonetheless, such systems, if engineered and packaged to western standards, should sell well in the West.
Platan showed a very large-screen CRT projector system operating with a poor quality German rock video as a source. The screen, about 5 m x 6 m, is surprisingly bright. The projector uses a remarkable Russian invention in the CRTs that can multiply the CRT brightness by 2X, 4X, 8X, or more depending on the specific tube design. A large cathode is covered by a metal cap in which a line of N small holes are drilled. Each hole is an independent electron emitter, and has its own individual monolithic control grid.
Because of the placement of the holes, each individual beam is displaced by a fixed angle from the other beams, all of which scan together. The same video signal is applied through an appropriate delay line to each grid, so that the same image is written multiple times on the phosphor screen. Since the screen has cooled at a given spot in the time between successive beams, the output brightness is effectively multiplied N times. Presumably, the life is shortened by a similar factor of N.
Platan produces very high resolution CRTs, on the order of 4,000 lines, and produces an RGB tube with about a 3,500-line resolution. There was too little time to obtain details of the screen masks, but the team was told that these tubes have no screen masks, and that Platan uses special LC-controlled screen filters. The multibeam scan was applied in an optical recorder, with the beams scanning in parallel rather than sequentially. Platan produces a CRT for a 10 GHz real time oscilloscope, which uses a traveling wave structure for the deflectors.
Platan representatives showed this author a variety of ruggedized CRTs used in high performance military aircraft. One tube was used in the Russian AWACS aircraft, and another on an attack helicopter. A third was a radar PPI display on a supersonic fighter. The variety of tube types produced was bewildering. The production areas for CRTs were large and some areas were specialized for particular tubes.
In one area, a test facility was set up for evaluating glare suppression screens and filters. A multikilowatt lamp was turned on one test screen from a few feet away in a demonstration, but amazingly, the symbology seemed almost totally unaffected.
Platan also demonstrated heads-up display (HUD) components. Sitting before a screen backed by a light background, the pattern was projected onto the screen by holographic optics. The test pattern was a simple cross of lines that appeared a brilliant yellow green. Platan has a holographic optics manufacturing capability that is used in the HUD program.
A small CRT for a helmet-mounted display was then brought out. It measured about 15 mm in diameter and had a metal shield 4 or 5 cm in length, from which a few wires trailed. The operating voltage was in the several kV range at a fraction of a mA beam current. The screen did not use a phosphor, but used instead a very thin section of single crystal Ce:YAG mounted like a quantoscope. The fluorescence excited by the e-beam has a narrow spectral bandwidth in the blue, and works very well with the holographic optics used in the helmet. The company's representatives declined to show any helmets, saying that the company did not assemble them there.
Platan develops and produces the phosphors used in its products. The phosphors facility was large and well-equipped. The corporation's scientists are working on low-voltage phosphors and multicomponent phosphors that emit different colors depending on the beam voltage or current. While they claimed a 10 V phosphor, they demonstrated one at about 30 V. One phosphor screen they have produced, something doped with europium, showed strong evidence for laser action, that is, it exhibited threshold-like intensity behavior with significant spectral narrowing. Lasing in polycrystalline powder coatings apparently has not been reported previously, and therefore, if valid, would be novel. Platan also demonstrated voltage- induced color shift in a multicomponent phosphor.
Platan has developed a line of CRTs that uses color-modulated phosphors. There are several CRTs for different applications. The most impressive during the WTEC visit was a large tube, possibly 30", that was used in a radar PPI scope. The voltage-induced color shift was sufficient to produce five distinct hues, and the colors were used to color-code targets and write symbology. The tube was operating with a bar test pattern in which colors ranging from green through yellow and tan were visible. The benefit of this technology is primarily simplicity and low cost.
Platan manufactures a line of vidicon tubes and camera systems. One monochrome camera was for a surveillance unit, and was comparable in size to a small CCD unit. A very high-resolution monochrome camera was also displayed that achieved about 3,500- 4,000 line resolution. Platan also manufactures vidicons that operate with X-rays, ultraviolet, near infrared for night vision goggles, and out to 14 şm. The tubes are well-engineered and manufactured to high-quality standards.
Platan has established a capability for performing research and development and pilot production in AMLCDs. The corporation has already set up large clean rooms in which device fabrication is performed, and has cleared a large area for its planned production area. At the time of the WTEC visit, the vacant area appeared to be at least 10,000 ft2; the department head said that the processing equipment had been ordered for delivery in 1994. It was not clear whether this equipment was being purchased in the West or in Russia. Additional information received in September 1994 indicates that installation is well underway.
The corporation displayed two AMLCD demonstration systems that had been fabricated in the Platan facility. Platan has obviously been successful in the development of TFT technology as part of its research and development program. One screen was approximately 6 cm x 6 cm, backlighted by what appeared to be four small fluorescent tubes with a reflector backing. The intensity of the image appeared quite uniform. A video signal, actually an English-language study tape, from a VCR was displayed. The quality of the image was comparable to that seen in western AMLCD systems with only a few bad pixels. The color facility also appeared good, certainly competitive with western AMLCD screens. All driver electronics, which appeared neat and well packaged, were produced at Platan.
The second display screen was about 13 cm x 17 cm, or a bit larger. It was about the size of the AMLCD screens on the Airbus A320, and the image quality and color were comparable to those screens. The screen had 480 x 640 pixels. Close-up photos of the screen did not come out, unfortunately. There were a few more bad pixels than in the smaller screen, but the overall impression was good. One screen version is 13 cm x 13 cm and has 864 x 864 pixels.
The director of the LC area said that Platan's pricing strategy would be to offer screens and electronics that perform competitively at 70% of the world market prices. Platan is actively developing flat panel displays for avionics applications, and would be willing to supply such hardware to McDonnell Douglas and others for commercial and military applications. The author obtained a tentative specification sheet for AMLCDs.
Platan has invested very heavily in the development of quantoscope projector technology. The corporation has also pursued a few other applications of the e-beam pumped semiconductor laser (EBSL) not related to displays. Judging by the installed facilities and the number of quantoscope tubes built and tested, the work obviously goes back many years. The quantoscope program at Platan must have expended 30-50 million in old Rubles. The facilities in place to support the quantoscope program included the following:
The crystal growth facility is large and well-equipped. There are several growth stations and separate areas for material preparation. There are staff members in the crystal growth facility, three of whom were acquired from Elma. The starting materials are initially mixed in a large laminar downflow module. There are two or three vacuum furnaces in which the materials were heated and reacted in a silica enclosure. A cool zone in the furnace allows a polycrystalline mass of II-VI crystals to form by vapor transport. The polycrystalline mass is actually used to grow the large crystals needed for the quantoscope screens. This is essentially a vacuum distillation process to remove impurities and to control starting composition and stoichiometry.
The crystal growth reactors consist of a closed upright silica tube containing a basket-like structure to hold the polycrystalline starting material above a pedestal upon which the flat seed plate is placed. Argon gas rises around the interior wall of the tube and then descends over the polycrystalline mass and seed plate. The furnace is then lowered over the tube and the entire assembly is heated to about 900 degrees centigrade- 1,000 degrees centigrade. An intentional vertical temperature gradient is imposed so that material evaporates from the polycrystalline mass and is deposited on the growing crystal that forms on the seed plate. The growth of a 75 mm thick crystal 70 mm in diameter takes about five days, for a growth rate of 10 şm/min. The crystal compositions grown include CdSxSe1-x for the green and red screens, and Zn1-xCdxSe for the blue screens. Platan has a complete crystal evaluation laboratory, including X-ray diffraction, rocking curves, SEM, TEM, and photoluminescence.
During the tour, eight tube tests were visibly in progress, including red, yellow, blue, and green. An offer was also made to turn on an infrared tube, but insufficient time was available.
A high-power red tube was under test in one laboratory. It was emitting about 15 W of average power with a 50% duty factor test pattern. A laser machine engineered for photodynamic cancer therapy was also being tested in the same large laboratory. It had been built for an unidentified foreign customer. The laser system was about 1.5 m x 1 m x 2 m, and was very well built. The beam could be concentrated on the target tumor or collected by an optical fiber.
One device being tested was a short, high-resolution red tube that was demonstrating >2,500 line resolution at about 5 W of average output power. Most quantoscopes are about 1 m in length and have a gettering pump attached to the side of the glass envelop near the screen end of the tube. This tube was no longer than 0.5 m, and used an internal gettering material of an unfamiliar design. Each tube used several beads of a grayish material that allowed the tube designer to eliminate the gettering pump. Removal of the external pump was a significant improvement in itself, but the short tube design was an unexpected advance in quantoscope technology.
Demonstrated 2,500 line resolution with room for further improvement is a major step forward. Electronics and video sources are all that prevent Platan from achieving an immediate full-scale HDTV projection demonstration.
A bright blue tube operating at about 4 W was also being tested. Crystal defects were apparent in the image projected. Such defects were either not present or were much less obvious with the images projected by the red, yellow, and green tubes. Also, the blue tube wavelengths are not really quite short enough, but are 485 nm or longer. The development of an acceptable blue laser material has been fairly recent, and additional research and development is necessary. The II-VI crystal growth technology programs sponsored by ARPA in several universities and companies could play a vital role in launching this projector technology in the West.
Platan demonstrated a yellow rear quantoscope operating at 6 W. The image showed a noticeable variation in brightness from one side to the other. This was explained as the result of the longer electron path length from one side to the other. The size of the e-beam spot is smaller on one side, and hence the laser is farther over the threshold and the image is brighter. The effect could probably be corrected with dynamic focusing, but the Platan group went to great lengths to explain this problem of rear quantoscopes. The group is in head-to-head competition with Rosich, which uses rear quantoscopes in its projection system; Platan wanted WTEC to know that the Rosich design had this problem.
Platan has numerous tubes stacked in racks or lying around; 1,248 had been built. The recent tubes incorporate the mysterious getter beads and are of the new short neck design. Platan's capacity to produce quantoscopes was in the thousands per year, with minor adjustments to existing tube lines.
Platan also produced quantoscopes that operate in the ultraviolet (330 nm and 370 nm) and from the near IR out to more than 8 şm. Much effort is being focused on mid-infrared lasers, and Platan has demonstrated a quantoscope operating over the wavelength range of interest. Power levels in the multiwatt range were reported in the literature several years ago. Such tubes could have applications in IRCM and as IR image generators for flir or IR seeker testing.
The quantoscope test station could thoroughly evaluate a tube under test. The laser threshold, mode structure, spatial uniformity, spectrum, power, efficiency, temperature dependence, and so forth, were all readily measured under standardized test conditions. It was evident that considerable expertise and effort had been invested in the test set.
The life test station was equipped to burn-in four quantoscopes simultaneously. There were provisions for cooling, driving, and monitoring the performance of each tube separately. The station had been costly to build, but was essential to evaluate screen material and processing improvements. Platan representatives asserted that the mirror coatings were the life limiting elements of the screens. In light of the research and development effort that has been invested in reliability, perhaps they are correct.
The scientists demonstrated a small, compact, large area e-beam pumped pulsed laser at room temperature. One such tube had a 50 mm screen that was patterned with a grid of grooves to suppress transverse lasing action. The entire screen was pulse pumped by a large area field emission cathode driven by a high-voltage pulse generator. The pulse length was 3 ns and the voltage was 250 kV. The pulse current was quoted as 1,000 A, so the input pulse energy was 750 mJ. At 10-15% efficiency, the laser screen emitted a pulse of about 100 mJ of red laser light. The flash was quite bright on a distant wall.
The application for this device is nanosecond strobe lighting for recording ultrafast action. Using the monochromatic nature of the light pulse, an interferometric visualization of shock and flow fields around projectiles was easily achieved. Shorter pulses could also be produced for photographing even faster events. The addition of an external laser mirror and mode control optics have allowed similar devices to produce up to 1 J per pulse in a few mrad beam. Such lasers have many potential applications.
Another tube had three different crystal screens, so that a red, yellow, and green beam could be projected into the air above a runway. The pilot in an approaching aircraft could then use the color of light observed as a glide slope indicator. A similar system of colored lights, called the Visual Approach Slope Indicator, is used at many U.S. airports.
By far, the most impressive demonstration during the tour was of Platan's RGB quantoscope projector prototype. This projector was set up in a moderate-sized theater, which had a screen that was about 5 m x 12 m. The image was comfortably bright in the dimmed theater, but it was not bright enough for viewing with normal lighting. The image was excellent, no color registration problems were evident, and there was no hint of laser speckle. The green was clearly the brightest color, followed by red and then blue. The delayed multibeam technique described above could increase brightness several times, but Platan has not attempted to incorporate this feature into a quantoscope.
Computer graphics from a commercial software package were projected, and the image was crisp and sharp. The computer- generated video source produced a resolution of several hundred lines. A series of computer generated images were then projected at a 1,050-line resolution. These images, one in particular of a red rose, were spectacular. Quantoscope projection of real-time HDTV will be extremely impressive.
The prototype projector clearly demonstrated the promise of quantoscope technology. A few iterations in the engineering and packaging of this projector will be required to produce a projector ready to launch in western markets. It will, however, enable the electronic cinema and other applications not possible today.
Platan is a very large and well-equipped facility operated by the State Committee of Defense Branches of Industry. The corporation has achieved significant performance with AMLCD screens, which it intends to put into production. Platan has a significant capability in CRTs, especially those used in military applications. The corporation has invested heavily in quantoscope development and has made major progress. However, it is not clear how Platan plans to develop its products for western markets, nor how it will go about offering opportunities to western investors. It is clearly an organization with great promise.