General information about LCD
A liquid crystal display (LCD) is a thin, flat panel used for electronically displaying information such as text, images, and moving pictures. Its uses include monitors for computers, televisions, instrument panels, and other devices ranging from aircraft cockpit displays, to every-day consumer devices such as video players, gaming devices, clocks, watches, calculators, and telephones. Among its major features are its lightweight construction, its portability, and its ability to be produced in much larger screen sizes than are practical for the construction of cathode ray tube (CRT) display technology. Its low electrical power consumption enables it to be used in battery-powered electronic equipment. It is an electronically-modulated optical device made up of any number of pixels filled with liquid crystals and arrayed in front of a light source (back light) or reflector to produce images in color or monochrome. The earliest discovery leading to the development of LCD technology, the discovery of liquid crystals, dates from 1888. By 2008, worldwide sales of televisions with LCD screens had surpassed the sale of CRT units.
Each pixel of an LCD typically consists of a layer of molecules aligned between two transparent electrodes, and two polarizing filters, the axes of transmission of which are (in most of the cases) perpendicular to each other. With no actual liquid crystal between the polarizing filters, light passing through the first filter would be blocked by the second (crossed) polarizer.
The surface of the electrodes that are in contact with the liquid crystal material are treated so as to align the liquid crystal molecules in a particular direction. This treatment typically consists of a thin polymer layer that is unidirectionally rubbed using, for example, a cloth. The direction of the liquid crystal alignment is then defined by the direction of rubbing. Electrodes are made of a transparent conductor called Indium Tin Oxide (ITO).
Before applying an electric field, the orientation of the liquid crystal molecules is determined by the alignment at the surfaces of electrodes. In a twisted nematic device (still the most common liquid crystal device), the surface alignment directions at the two electrodes are perpendicular to each other, and so the molecules arrange themselves in a helical structure, or twist. This reduces the rotation of the polarization of the incident light, and the device appears gray. If the applied voltage is large enough, the liquid crystal molecules in the center of the layer are almost completely untwisted and the polarization of the incident light is not rotated as it passes through the liquid crystal layer. This light will then be mainly polarized perpendicular to the second filter, and thus be blocked and the pixel will appear black. By controlling the voltage applied across the liquid crystal layer in each pixel, light can be allowed to pass through in varying amounts thus constituting different levels of gray.
The optical effect of a twisted nematic device in the voltage-on state is far less dependent on variations in the device thickness than that in the voltage-off state. Because of this, these devices are usually operated between crossed polarizers such that they appear bright with no voltage (the eye is much more sensitive to variations in the dark state than the bright state). These devices can also be operated between parallel polarizers, in which case the bright and dark states are reversed. The voltage-off dark state in this configuration appears blotchy, however, because of small variations of thickness across the device.
Both the liquid crystal material and the alignment layer material contain ionic compounds. If an electric field of one particular polarity is applied for a long period of time, this ionic material is attracted to the surfaces and degrades the device performance. This is avoided either by applying an alternating current or by reversing the polarity of the electric field as the device is addressed (the response of the liquid crystal layer is identical, regardless of the polarity of the applied field).
When a large number of pixels are needed in a display, it is not technically possible to drive each directly since then each pixel would require independent electrodes. Instead, the display is multiplexed. In a multiplexed display, electrodes on one side of the display are grouped and wired together (typically in columns), and each group gets its own voltage source. On the other side, the electrodes are also grouped (typically in rows), with each group getting a voltage sink. The groups are designed so each pixel has a unique, unshared combination of source and sink. The electronics, or the software driving the electronics then turns on sinks in sequence, and drives sources for the pixels of each sink.
Wikipedia link about LCD