Twisted Nematic (TN), Super Twisted Nematic (STN), Film Compensated STN (FSTN), and Color STN (CSTN) are the terms used to describe four types of Liquid Crystal Displays, each twisting the orientation of the light passing through the Liquid Crystal Display structure differently to effect contrast and coloration. We also compare coloration, viewing angles, and costs between the technologies.
Twisted Nematic (TN) LCDs
TN displays have a twist (the rotation of the molecules from one plane of the display to the other) of 90 degrees or less. All passive direct drive, active matrix, and most passive low level (x2 to x32) multiplexed LCD’s have a 90 degree twist.
The basic Twisted Nematic (TN) LCD consists of a layer of liquid crystal material supported by two glass plates. The liquid crystal material is a mixture of long, cylindrically shaped molecules with different electrical and optical properties, depending on direction.
On the inner surfaces of the glass plates are transparent electrodes, which are patterned to form the desired visual image. The inner surfaces are coated with a polymer, which is rubbed so that the liquid crystal material at one surface lies perpendicular to the other. Across the film of liquid crystal, the molecules form a 90° twist.
On the outer surface of the glass plates, polarizers are placed so they are parallel to the liquid crystal orientation and perpendicular to each other. In the “off” state, light entering the first polarizer is guided by the liquid crystal layer twist to the second polarizer, through which it is transmitted. When the cell is energized, the LC material is aligned with the electric field; light transmitted through the first polarizer is blocked by the second polarizer, forming a dark image. The effect may be reversed if the polarizers are placed parallel to each other, and a light image on a dark background is formed.
The TN technology comes in a single coloration, it is Black characters on a gray background. It is the least expensive, but has the lowest visual quality, primarily in viewing angle.
High Twisted Nematic (HTN) LCDs
HTN (High Twisted Nematic) displays are based on a higher molecular twist (usually 110°) than TN (90°) and therefore offer wider viewing angles and improved contrast. In fact, these HTN products offer viewing characteristics close to those of STN technology. As low operating voltage as 2.5V and marginal extra cost over TN means that the products are well suited to hand-held applications.
Super Twisted Nematic (STN) LCDs
Although Twisted Nematic LCDs may be driven in a time multiplexed fashion to increase the amount of information displayed, they are restricted in terms of reduced contrast and limited viewing angle. To achieve more highly multiplexed displays, super twist technology is employed.
Super Twisted Nematic LCD’s have a twist that is greater than 90 but less than 360 degrees. Currently most STN displays are made with a twist between 180 and 270 degrees. The higher twist angles cause steeper threshold curves which put the on and off voltages closer together. The steeper thresholds allow multiplex rates greater than 32 to be achieved.
In this type of display, the LC material undergoes a greater than 90° twist from plate to plate; typical values range from 180 to 270°. The polarizers in this case are not mounted parallel to the LC at the surface but rather at some angle. The cell, therefore, does not work on a light “guiding” principle, as in Twisted Nematic LCDs, but instead on a birefringence principle. The position of the polarizers, the cell thickness, and the birefringence of the LC are carefully chosen to result in a particular color in the “off” state. Usually, this is a yellow-green to maximize the contrast ratio. The LC in the cell is “super twisted” that will give it the ability to use a high multiplex rate. As the twist is increased, the LC molecules in the middle of the layer are aligned with the applied electric field by smaller changes in voltage. This gives rise to a very steep transmission vs. voltage curve, allowing up to 240-line multiplexing.
The STN technology comes in two colorations, Green STN and Silver STN. The STN-Green has Dark Violet / Black characters on a Green background. The STN-Silver has Dark Blue / Black characters on a Silver background. It is in the middle of the road as far as cost, but has very good visual quality. The contrast is similar to TN technology.
Film Compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) LCDs
The most recent advance has been the introduction of Film compensated Super Twisted Nematic (FSTN) displays. This adds a retardation film to the STN display that compensates for the color added by the birefringence effect. This allows a black and white display to be produced and provides for a higher contrast and wider viewing angle.
The FSTN technology comes in a single coloration, Black characters on a White / Gray background. Of the three technologies listed here, it is the most expensive, but it has better viewing angles and contrast that the STN technology listed above.
Double Super Twisted Nematic (DSTN)
DSTN was the first commercial black and white conversion of the STN display. DSTN displays are actually two distinct STN filled glass cells glued together. The first is a LCD display, the second is a glass cell without electrodes or polarizers filled with LC material for use as a compensator which increases contrast and gives the black on white appearance.
DSTN provides better contrast than STN and FSTN, and offers automatic contrast compensation with temperature. Its response time is significantly enhanced. DSTN reduces the tendency of a screen to be slightly red, green or blue. Since its polarizer mode is negative, DSTN LCDs need backlighting, which is provided by either LED or CCFL only. It provides a resolution up to 122 x 32 dots. DSTN is suitable for use in/with automobiles, gasoline pumps, etc.
Color Super Twisted Nematic (CSTN) LCDs
Color STN Technology is actually STN technology that uses a white backlight and color filters to produce the hues required for a color display. Each visual pixel of a CSTN display is actually physically 3 separate pixels using a colored filter of Red. Green, and Blue. Each of those colors are controlled individually by the graphic controller chip. So in actually; a 320 by 240 pixel CSTN display actually contains 960 by 240 individually colored pixels.