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Dr. Xingwei Wu

Dr. Xingwei WuA technological breakthrough envisioned in 1936 was realized 60 years later when solid state physicist Dr. Xingwei Wu developed the hybrid electroluminescent flat-panel display screen—otherwise known as the flat colour TV screen or computer monitor.

Dr. Wu’s work for the Fort Saskatchewan-based Westaim Corp. was to gain a foothold in the market for flat-panel applications, estimated at around $20 billion.

"I think this will sell well," Dr. Wu told the Edmonton Journal in 1996 of the cost-efficient screen he and a team of 20 physicists, chemists, engineers and technologists had spent five years developing.

Dr. Wu’s first screens were just 8.5 inches wide, but by 1999 he had developed to a 17-inch full-colour solid state display.

That same year, the company identified a market for 42-inch screens based on gas plasma technology. With prices in the United States asking $12,000 for such a screen, Westaim felt it could offer a similar product using its thick dielectric electroluminescence (TDEL) technology for $3,000. Westaim’s approach in applying the layers of dielectric to the screen was compared to silk-screening on glass.

In 1998, Westaim spun off a separate division for its flat screen technology, naming it Advanced Display Technologies (ADT) and moving its team to Toronto. The company had no plans to develop its own television sets or computer monitors, but would look instead to forming a partnership with a major electronics manufacturer—TDK of Japan—and to rechristen the Toronto-based ADT division as iFire Technology.

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