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Low power consuption pocket projector developed by Lemoptix

By Damir Beciri
17 September 2010

lemoptix-pocket-projectorMicro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are becoming more popular as a basis for the next generation of optical materials. Lemoptix, a spin-off of EPFL, working together with the Maher Kayal Laboratory, completed their development of their miniature projector at the beginning of September. Its developers claim it should be on the market by the end of 2011.

With a projection head of 1 cm3, and a total size smaller than a credit card, this new micro projector could be integrated in a portable computer or a smartphone, or even an MP3 reader, while keeping its bright, high-quality image. This new device will enable the projection of documents and videos onto a wall, in the same way as current fixed projectors. Another significant advantage of this projector is its low demand for energy, requiring on average 30% less current than the matrix- or LED-based technology currently available on the market.

“This micro-projector functions using tiny mirrors of less than a millimeter’s thickness. Positioned on a silicon (wafer) disc, they reflect red, blue and green laser beams”, explains Maher Kayal, the EPFL research director who developed the microelectronic aspects of the system. The device, contained in a 3 mm x 4 mm glass case, oscillates so rapidly that the beam can scan a surface up to 20,000 times a second. In August, Maher Kayal’s team was able to generate a color image in VGA resolution (640 x 480px) for the first time.

This pocket projector works at a minimum distance of 50 centimeters (almost 20 inches), and enables the projection of images onto a surface equivalent to a 15-inch screen. During the last few months, the Lemoptix team has considerably improved the architecture of the optical head containing the laser light sources and the MEMS mirrors, thus reducing the size of the whole device and its energy consumption. The manufacturing and assembly processes have also been defined, and the first sub-contractors identified.

“The micro-components used can be manufactured in thousands, even tens of thousands, at low cost”, emphasizes Nicolas Abelé, Technical Director of the start-up, located in the EPFL Science Park.

It will be developed from now until end-2011 for industrial applications. It could be used by automobile manufacturers to project information directly onto the windshield, or to beam information related to an operation directly onto the patient during surgery, thus eliminating the need for surgeons lift their head during the procedure. The Lemoptix team is already envisioning a new and interactive version of their projector which would allow you to touch the projected image to zoom or change screen.

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