Miniature device could allow a cell phone to project images on a wall

September 20, 2010


A new one-cubic-centimeter projector head that can be integrated into a portable computer or mobile telephone has been developed by  Lemoptix, a spin-off of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the Maher Kayal Laboratory.

The projector uses very little energy, requiring on average 30% less current than the matrix- or LED-based technology currently available on the market. It should be available in 2011 for industrial applications, and the following year for consumer electronics, according to Nicolas Abelé, Technical Director of the start-up.

“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 tiny glass case (3 mm x 4 mm), 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.


“The micro-components used can be manufactured in thousands, even tens of thousands, at low cost,” says Abelé.” It will be developed initially for industrial applications. For example, it could be used by automobile manufacturers to project information directly onto the windshield, such as speed and GPS information. “Medical technology companies have already shown an interest: this technology could be used to beam information related to an operation directly onto the patient, and would avoid the surgeon having to lift his head to look at a screen.”

The improved brightness and contrast will enable it to replace LCD screens. The Lemoptix team envisions an interactive version that would allow you to touch the projected image to zoom or change screen.

More info: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) news