Plasma TV inventor plotting to replace all LCDs with plasmas

Pictured above is Dr. Larry Weber, the man who essentially invented plasma TV. He's working to have plasma, with its better performance in the dark and wider viewing angles, replace LCD screens on laptops and tablets. And he's doing it from his garage.

Weber, who can be called the Father of Plasma TV and resembles a cross between Santa Claus and mad scientist Dr. Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future movies, works independently in his New Paltz, NY, garage with a couple of graduate students on cutting plasma's power consumption. While his eventual goal is to achieve 40 times more power efficiency, he believes a more immediate goal of 20 times is possible within a year or two.

"There's no fundamental reason why we can't achieve this," an animated Weber told me after his induction last week into the Consumer Electronics Association's Hall of Fame. "It's a matter of solving the engineering problems, but those can be overcome." (Full disclosure: I am an elector for the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.)

While a student in the mid-1960s, Weber worked with the original inventors of plasma display technology, Donald Blitzer and Gene Slottow, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Weber spent the next 30 years, primarily at his own company, Plasmaco, working to convert what was designed to be a monochrome computer-display technology into the first 60-inch big-screen color TV in 1999. One of his first breakthroughs was the energy-recovery circuit, which cut plasma power consumption by almost half.

If Weber is successful in his current power-efficiency research, plasma would become far more power efficient than LCD. An LCD screen represents 25-30% of a laptop's total power consumption; Weber asserts a more efficient plasma display might reduce this consumption to just 5%.

When will this happen? Since his research is ongoing, Weber couldn't predict a time frame other than believing it's more of a when than an if. "A lot of people are people are working on this," Weber admitted. (Notably, Apple is working on reducing LCD power consumption.) He then added, "But not like I am!"

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