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LED Backlighting for LCD Televisions

Purpose The intent of this paper is to familiarize Electronic Servicers with what will be the central component in the next generation of flat screen televisions. With the ever growing popularity of LCD televisions, research and development has produced a method of back lighting an LCD panel that is superior to the Cold Cathode Fluorescent (CCFL) Backlighting, currently the most popular amongst television manufacturers. The new method employs a Light Emitting Diode Array, commonly referred to as LED Array or, an in-line strip of individual LEDs, referred to as Edge Lit. This paper is a basic explanation of how LED backlighting works. There are many algorithms applied to the ICs involved in the LED Dimming process. This paper does not intend to go into the engineering behind this very complicated process. Background LED backlighting is an evolution of basic LCD technology. For a comprehensive understanding of basic LCD technology, it is recommended you review Toshiba White Paper, 2.0, LCD Television Technology. Assuming basic LCD technology is understood, we will discuss the need for evolving to LED backlighting. There are inherent difficulties with the CCFL method of backlighting: 1. CCFL requires an inverter to supply 400-700 volts AC as an operating voltage for the lamps. This results in heavy power requirements. 2. True Black areas of the picture are not attainable because the CCFL lamps are always on. This allows for leakage of light through the liquid crystal materials even when the crystals are turned off. The contrast ratio (true white to true black) suffers greatly because of this.

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3. Motion blur is difficult to minimize using the CCFL method of backlighting (constantly on backlighting) due to the relatively slow response time (transition time from off to on to off) of the TFT circuitry in the panel. 4. CCFL average life span is 20,000 hours.

Physical Comparison Figure 1 is a graphic of a conventional LCD panel utilizing a standard CCFL backlight assembly. You will notice the inverter, lamps, and diffuser.

Figure 1 Figure 2 is a drawing of two LED lighted panels; one Edge Lit, one LED array.

Figure 2

All three panels shown require lighting and a diffuser. At this stage, the main difference is the inverter (required by CCFL method). Of the two LED backlight designs, the LED
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array offers more precise brightness/contrast control and will therefore, be the method discussed in this paper. An LED Array obviously requires a power source (Driver Board). An LED Array that is not intended for use as a brightness/contrast controller can be powered by a simple DC power source producing a constant current. This method will produce a pre-determined brightness level uniformly throughout the entire panel. The end result would be comparable to using a CCFL or Edge Lit Backlight. Therefore, another type power source must be used to achieve more precise control when using an LED Array. Figure 3 is a close-up of an LED array showing a driver and the driver PCB.

Figure 3 Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) By changing the On time and Amplitude of a DC voltage, we can achieve control of the current flow through an LED Array at specific times. See Figure 4.

Figure 4 In Figure 4, we can see that the average current flow through the array in a given time period is 100ma. However, by using PWM, we are only driving the array for 1/5th the time with 5 times the current. If 100ma was the desired current for a normal brightness
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level, we could achieve normalcy on the LCD Panel in 1/5th the time. The human eye has a built-in retention for the highest brightness level applied. This retention gives the perception of a brightness level closer to the 500ma drive than the 100ma drive. Therefore, when a brightness level higher than what is considered normal (desired) is required by the signal, PWM can provide that level (perceived by the human eye). In order to prevent noticeable changes in applied light (flicker), the pulse repetition rate must be higher than 100hz and less than 1khz. One of the side benefits of PWM is decreased power requirements due to the decreased duty cycle (up to 30% less power compared to CCFL). Applying the Theory Now, lets apply the PWM theory to an LCD Panel using an LED Array for back lighting. Refer to Figure 5.


Figure 5 If the LED array is divided into sections (grids) and each section lights a small portion of the entire LCD panel (also sectioned into grids), the brightness level in one particular section can easily be controlled using PWM in conjunction with data from the T-Con and Video Processing circuitry. For example, if the processed video is calling for a bright
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picture in the upper right portion of the LCD panel, the backlight section(s) in that area will be told to provide the required brightness level. This synchronization between the Video Processor, T-Con, and LED circuitry will occur across the entire LCD panel thus, improving brightness (where called for) across the display.

What about Dark Scenes The refresh rate of the panel is either 60, 120, or 240 times per second. Those are the rates that scene changes may occur. When the processed video requires pixels to become dark (black), during a refresh cycle, the Thin Film Transistors (TFTs) that drive the LCDs for those pixels are told to shut-off. Because of the charging capacitor in the TFT circuitry, there is a slight delay in shutting down the LCD. To compensate for that delay, the LED array section in that particular grid will also be told to turn-off. The response time of the LEDs are instantaneous therefore, eliminates any chance of light being passed through the LCD Material of those pixels. This produces much darker areas of black, improving the Contrast Ratio. For a refresher, see Figure 6 (LCD Matrix with TFTs and capacitors).

Figure 6
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Summary Having the ability to increase the brightness of the backlight during bright scenes and shut-off (or decrease) the backlight during dark (black) scenes can produce dynamic contrast ratios of up to 2,000,000 to 1. In comparing the life expectancy of LED to that of CCFL, the LED backlighting lasts up to 2 times longer. The fact the response time is almost instantaneous in an LED, motion blur is reduced when the backlight is shut-off at the same time the TFT is commanded to shut-off. There can be no brightness lag if there is no backlight applied to illuminate the liquid crystal material.

Resources Pacific Display Devices Video Imaging Design Line (NXP Semiconductors) U. of Southern Cal Department of Engineering Sound & Vision

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