Plasma televisions are considered at the high-end of the television display market. The very word "plasma" conjures up thoughts of futuristic technology.
Plasma televisions are also known as plasma display panels (PDP), and they use a plasma or gas contained between two phosphor-coated glass panels. The plasma consists of the noble gases neon and xenon that interact with the phosphors creating light. The color and intensity of each pixel of the plasma panel is controlled by a computer-directed electron beam.
The plasma television was invented in a very simple prototype form back in 1964 by University of Illinois professors Donald Bitzer and Gene Slottow, and their graduate student Robert Willson. However, the early technology was rather crude until Larry Weber developed a high-resolution, large screen prototype plasma display for Matsushita, and sold by Panasonic. The first publicly-sold plasma television was offered by Pioneer in 1997.
The Japanese were the first to show genuine interest in plasma television technology and the Japanese company Fujitsu eventually became the world leader in plasma display panel production. One reason for the Japanese interest was that plasma panels were effective at displaying the Japanese Kanji script.
In the early 1970s, plasma televisions were popularly used in some roles but they began to decline in the late 1970s due to the advent of cheaper CRT displays. They continued to be used though for high-end purposes requiring large screens and higher quality displays. In 2002, Bitzer, Slottow, Willson and Fujitsu received the Emmy award for technological achievement in connection with plasma TV development..
Most consumer plasma televisions have either 800 x 600 or 1280 x 1024 pixel resolutions. Plasma displays are bright with high contrast, and power consumption comparable to a CRT or AMLCD television. Plasma screens have a higher "glare" factor than LCD displays because the screen is made of glass, but recently companies like Panasonic have applied an anti-glare coating to their displays.
The plasma television screen is large but very thin -- an advantage for many types of usage. Plasma and CRT displays have similar wide viewing angles that are superior to that of the LCD display. Newer plasma TVs last about 100,000 viewing hours although improper usage can reduce this lifespan. At an average 10 hours per day, a modern plasma television should last for 27 years before the peak picture brightness declines to half its original value.
Contrast ratios i.e. the extremes between dark and bright colors for plasma TVs, is higher than that of LCD displays. Some plasma displays have contrast ratios in the range of 1,000,000:1. Plasma screens have brightness levels of 1000 lux or higher.
One drawback of plasma displays is the phenomenon of screen burn-in. Phosphor burn-in at locations on the display used more frequently results in the creation of ghost images on the screen. Also, when the display is run at high brightness, ghost images can be created by electrical charge buildup in the pixels.
Although plasma televisions are expensive, new advances have gradually reduced the price of these displays. There are also efforts to make plasma televisions more energy efficient.