Without question, the most important innovation, and one that had the most impact, is the e-beam stimulated laser, clearly an innovation developed in Russia. Its impact comes from the fact that it has the potential of creating a laser projection system of intensities never before realized. In this innovation a high- energy electron beam is converted into a high-intensity laser beam. The Russian scientists currently use single crystal phosphors for this conversion, although they are exploring other types of materials. Largely because of their long history of work on cathode ray tubes, former Soviet Union scientists have achieved a strong development in phosphor materials. Low-voltage phosphors for vacuum fluorescent displays were found in Russia and Ukraine. In the area of liquid crystal materials, some of the most exciting advances were in photoaligned polymers that could be used for polarizing sheets as well as alignment layers for liquid crystal displays. WTEC panelists also found some unique electrochromic materials. FSU scientists make heavy use of organic electrochromics, which were displayed on impressive shutters.
A big surprise to the team were the strong manufacturing bases in vacuum fluorescent displays (VFD) and STN displays. The quality and cost of VFD displays the panel saw in the FSU are competitive on a worldwide scale, including Japan. The STN manufacturing base, although not as advanced as in Japan, was nevertheless more advanced than in the United States.
Nearly all of the active matrix technologies prevalent in the West were found in the FSU countries, including amorphous silicon, polysilicon, and MIM active matrix technologies. CdSe technology was not seen. Platan had advanced amorphous silicon and polysilicon technologies that were close to those of Optical Imaging Systems in the United States, used for pilot manufacturing. The most exciting development in active matrix technology was found in the Minsk area. The uniqueness of this facility was its completeness; it contained all the necessary infrastructure. Within the Minsk area alone, universities, institutes, several major companies, and many small companies are involved in this effort. Advanced liquid crystal materials, manufacturing equipment, integrated circuit drivers, and an active matrix pilot line are all on location. They can do everything in the region around Minsk necessary to produce an active matrix MIM display. The panel was fortunate to be able to invite the champion of this effort, Dr. Alexander Smirnov, to the United States.
The most important product the FSU countries have to offer the world in flat-panel display technologies is highly-educated engineers and scientists. According to one estimate, as many as 25% have already left the FSU and relocated to the West; they are extremely well-trained, and have a strong theoretical approach to the subject. Most firms in the FSU are looking for partners in the West as well as investment, aspects very well covered in the final chapter of this report.