"Our NED display is basically a thin, flat cathode ray tube with thousands of electron guns at each pixel," a spokesperson for Motorola told Optics.org. "The prototype has full colour video, high brightness, uniformity and colour purity in the ranges required for a commercial product. It shows NEDs have a promising future for use in flat panel displays."

The key to the development is Motorola's ability to grow carbon nanotubes directly onto the display's glass substrate. In the past, carbon nanotubes have been pasted or printed onto a surface but the quality of the resulting display has been disappointing.

"On a back plate, only 3 mm behind each sub-pixel, we place a small structure that contains about one thousand carbon nanotubes arranged such that a properly applied voltage excites each nanotube to bombard the colour phosphors with electrons," explained the spokesperson.

With a thickness of just 3.3 millimetres, the prototype is a 5-inch diagonal section of a 42-inch 1280x720 high-definition television and has a refresh rate of 60 Hz.

Motorola estimates that a 42-inch NED running typical video would consume 75 W. In comparison, the firm says a similar LCD would consume around 180 W because it requires a 60 W backlight and matrix switching.

Motorola now plans to license the technology to panel manufacturers. "Motorola is ready to deliver this technology to manufacturers today," said the spokesperson. "We estimate that this technology can be commercialized in the very near term, depending on the aggressiveness of the licensees."

The prototype has also been given the thumbs up by display analysts. "Motorola's NED technology is demonstrating full colour video with good response time," said Barry Young, the CFO of DisplaySearch. "According to a detailed cost model analysis conducted by our firm, we estimate the manufactured cost for a 40-inch NED panel could be under $400."