Cutaway rendering of a color CRT:
1. Three Electron guns (for red, green, and blue phosphor dots)
2. Electron beams
3. Focusing coils
4. Deflection coils
5. Anode connection
6. Mask for separating beams for red, green, and blue part of displayed image
7. Phosphor layer with red, green, and blue zones
8. Close-up of the phosphor-coated inner side of the screen
Magnified view of an aperture grille color CRT
Magnified view of a shadow mask color CRT
The cathode ray tube (CRT) is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun (a source of electrons or electron emitter) and a fluorescent screen used to view images. It has a means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam onto the fluorescent screen to create the images. The image may represent electrical waveforms (oscilloscope), pictures (television, computer monitor), radar targets and others. CRTs have also been used as memory devices, in which case the visible light emitted from the fluoresecent material (if any) is not intended to have significant meaning to a visual observer (though the visible pattern on the tube face may cryptically represent the stored data).
The CRT uses an evacuated glass envelope which is large, deep (i.e. long from front screen face to rear end), fairly heavy, and relatively fragile. As a matter of safety, the face is typically made of thick lead glass so as to be highly shatter-resistant and to block most X-ray emissions, particularly if the CRT is used in a consumer product.
CRTs have largely been superseded by more modern display technologies such as LCD, plasma display, and OLED, which offer lower manufacturing and distribution costs.
A common CRT used in computer monitors and television sets The experimentation of cathode rays is largely accredited to J.J. Thomson, an English physicist who, in his three famous experiments, was able to deflect cathode rays, a fundamental function of the modern CRT. The earliest version of the CRT was invented by the German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1897 and is also known as the Braun tube. It was a cold-cathode diode, a modification of the Crookes tube with a phosphor-coated screen.
In 1907, Russian scientist Boris Rosing used a CRT in the receiving end of an experimental video signal to form a picture. He managed to display simple geometric shapes onto the screen, which marked the first time that CRT technology was used for what is now known as television.
The first cathode ray tube to use a hot cathode was developed by John B. Johnson (who gave his name to the term Johnson noise) and Harry Weiner Weinhart of Western Electric, and became a commercial product in 1922.
It was named by inventor Vladimir K. Zworykin in 1929. RCA was granted a trademark for the term (for its cathode ray tube) in 1932; it voluntarily released the term to the public domain in 1950.
A 14 inch cathode ray tube showing its deflection coils and electron guns Typical 1950s United States television set
The first commercially made electronic television sets with cathode ray tubes were manufactured by Telefunken in Germany in 1934,
A cathode ray tube is a vacuum tube which consists of one or more electron guns, possibly internal electrostatic deflection plates, and a phosphor target. In television sets and computer monitors, the entire front area of the tube is scanned repetitively and systematically in a fixed pattern called a raster. An image is produced by controlling the intensity of each of the three electron beams, one for each additive primary color (red, green, and blue) with a video signal as a reference. In all modern CRT monitors and televisions, the beams are bent by magnetic deflection, a varying magnetic field generated by coils and driven by electronic circuits around the neck of the tube, although electrostatic deflection is commonly used in oscilloscopes, a type of diagnostic instrument.
In oscilloscope CRTs, electrostatic deflection is used, rather than the magnetic deflection commonly used with television and other large CRTs. The beam is deflected horizontally by applying an electric field between a pair of plates to its left and right, and vertically by applying an electric field to plates above and below. Oscilloscopes use electrostatic rather than magnetic deflection because the inductive reactance of the magnetic coils would limit the frequency response of the instrument.
Various phosphors are available depending upon the needs of the measurement or display application. The brightness, color, and persistence of the illumination depends upon the type of phosphor used on the CRT screen. Phosphors are available with persistences ranging from less than one microsecond to several seconds. For visual observation of brief transient events, a long persistence phosphor may be desirable. For events which are fast and repetitive, or high frequency, a short-persistence phosphor is generally preferable.
When displaying fast one-shot events the electron beam must deflect very quickly, with few electrons impinging on the screen; leading to a faint or invisible image on the display. Oscilloscope CRTs designed for very fast signals can give a brighter display by passing the electron beam through a micro-channel plate just before it reaches the screen. Through the phenomenon of secondary emission this plate multiplies the number of electrons reaching the phosphor screen, giving a significant improvement in writing rate (brightness), and improved sensitivity and spot size as well.
Most oscilloscopes have a graticule as part of the visual display, to facilitate measurements. The graticule may be permanently marked inside the face of the CRT, or it may be a transparent external plate made of glass or acrylic plastic. An internal graticule eliminates parallax error, but cannot be changed to accommodate different types of measurements. Oscilloscopes commonly provide a means for the graticule to be illuminated from the side, which improves its visibility.
Color tubes use three different phosphors which emit red, green, and blue light respectively. They are packed together in stripes (as in aperture grille designs) or clusters called "triads" (as in shadow mask CRTs). Color CRTs have three electron guns, one for each primary color, arranged either in a straight line or in an equilateral triangular configuration (the guns are usually constructed as a single unit). (The triangular configuration is often called "delta-gun", based on its relation to the shape of the Greek letter delta.) A grille or mask absorbs the electrons that would otherwise hit the wrong phosphor. A shadow mask tube uses a metal plate with tiny holes, placed so that the electron beam only illuminates the correct phosphors on the face of the tube. Another type of color CRT uses an aperture grille to achieve the same result.
Spectra of constituent blue, green and red phosphors in a common CRT
Convergence and purity in color CRTs
Due to limitations in the dimensional precision with which CRTs can be manufactured economically, it has not been practically possible to build color CRTs in which the geometric configuration of the electron gun axes and aperture positions, shadow mask apertures, etc. would be aligned with the precision required for three electron beams to hit phosphors of respective color in acceptable coordination. The shadow mask ensures that one beam will only hit spots certain colors of phosphors, but minute variations in physical alignment of the internal parts among individual CRTs will cause variations in the exact alignment of the beams through the shadow mask, allowing some electrons from, for example, the red beam to hit, say, blue phosphors, unless some individual compensation is made for the variance among individual tubes.
Color convergence and color purity are two aspects of this single problem. Firstly, for correct color rendering it is necessary that regardless of where the beams are deflected on the screen, they hit the same spot (and nominally pass through the same hole or slot) on the shadow mask. This is called convergence. More specifically, the convergence at the center of the screen (with no deflection field applied by the yoke) is called static convergence, and the convergence over the rest of the screen area is called dynamic convergence. The beams may converge at the center of the screen and yet stray from each other as they are deflected toward the edges; such a CRT would be said to have good static convergence but poor dynamic convergence.
Secondly, after convergence, it is necessary that each beam hit only the phosphors of its designated color. If a beam hits the shadow mask at the wrong angle, it will hit some phosphors of other colors adjacent to those of the color it is supposed to hit, yielding a combined color that is off hue from the pure color it is supposed to produce. Like convergence, purity has static and dynamic variants, defined analogously to their convergence counterparts.
The solution to the static convergence and purity problems is a set of color alignment magnets installed around the neck of the CRT. These movable weak permanent magnets are usually mounted on the back end of the deflection yoke assembly and are set at the factory to compensate for any static purity and convergence errors that are intrinsic to the unadjucted tube. Typically there are two or three pairs of two magnets in the form of rings made of plastic impregnated with a magnetic material, with their magnetic fields parallel to the planes of the magnets, which are perpendicular to the electron gun axes. Each pair of magnetic rings forms a single effective magnet whose field vector can be fully and freely adjusted. By rotating a pair of magnets relative to each other, their relative field alignment can be varied, adjusting the effective field strength of the pair. (As they rotate relative to each other, each magnet's field can be considered to have two opposing components at right angles, and these four components [two each for two magnets] form two pairs, one pair reinforcing each other and the other pair opposing and canceling each other. Rotating away from alignment, the magnets' mutually reinforcing field components decrease as they are traded for increasing opposed, mutually cancelling components.) By rotating a pair of magnets together, preserving the relative angle between them, the direction of their collective magnetic field can be varied. Overall, adjusting all of the convergence/purity magnets allows a finely tuned slight electron beam deflection and/or lateral offset to be applied, which compensates for minor static convergence and purity errors intrinsic to the uncalibrated tube. Once set, these magnets are usually glued in place, but normally they can be freed and readjusted in the field (e.g. by a TV repair shop) if necessary.
On some CRTs, additional fixed adjustable magnets are added for dynamic convergence and/or dynamic purity at specific points on the screen, typically near the corners or edges. Further adjustment of dynamic convergence and purity typically cannot be done passively, but requires active compensation circuits.
Dynamic color convergence and purity are one of the main reasons why until late in their history, CRTs were long-necked (deep) and had biaxially curved faces; these geometric design characteristics are necessary for intrinsic passive dynamic color convergence and purity. Only starting around the 1990s did sophisticated active dynamic convergence compensation circuits become available that made short-necked and flat-faced CRTs workable. These active compensation circuits use the deflection yoke to finely adjust beam deflection according to the beam target location. The same techniques (and major circuit components) also make possible the adjustment of display image rotation, skew, and other complex raster geometry parameters through electronics under user control.
If the shadow mask becomes magnetized, its magnetic field deflects the electron beams passing through it, causing color purity distortion as the beams bend through the mask holes and hit some phosphors of a color other than that which they are intended to strike; e.g. some electrons from the red beam may hit blue phosphors, giving pure red parts of the image a magenta tint. This effect is localized to a specific area of the screen if the magnetization of the shadow mask is localized. Therefore, it is important that the shadow mask is unmagnetized. (A magnetized aperture grille has a similar effect, and everything stated in this subsection about shadow masks applies as well to aperture grilles.)
Most color CRT displays, i.e. television sets and computer monitors, each have a built-in degaussing (demagnetizing) circuit, the primary component of which is a degaussing coil which is mounted around the perimeter of the CRT face inside the bezel. Upon power-up of the CRT display, the degaussing circuit produces a brief, alternating current through the degaussing coil which smoothly decays in strength (fades out) to zero over a period of a few seconds, producing a decaying alternating magnetic field from the coil. This degaussing field is strong enough to remove shadow mask magnetization in most cases. In unusual cases of strong magnetization where the internal degaussing field is not sufficient, the shadow mask may be degaussed externally with a stronger portable degausser or demagnetizer. (However, note that a magnetic field that is too strong, whether alternating or constant, may mechanically deform [bend] the shadow mask, causing a permanent color distortion on the display which looks very similar to a magnetization effect.)
The degaussing circuit is often built of a thermo-electric (not electronic) device containing a small ceramic heating element and a positive thermal coefficient (PTC) resistor, connected directly to the switched AC power line with the resistor in series with the degaussing coil. When the power is switched on, the heating element heats the PTC resistor, increasing its resistance to a point where degaussing current is minimal, but not actually zero. In older CRT displays, this low-level current (which produces no significant degaussing field) is sustained along with the action of the heating element as long as the display remains switched on. To repeat a degaussing cycle, the CRT display must be switched off and left off for at least several seconds to reset the degaussing circuit by allowing the PTC resistor to cool to the ambient temperature; switching the display off and immediately back on will result in a weak degaussing cycle or effectively no degaussing cycle.
This simple design is effective and cheap to build, but it wastes some power continuously. Later models, especially Energy Star rated ones, use a relay to switch the entire degaussing circuit on and off, so that the degaussing circuit uses energy only when it is functionally active and needed. The relay design also enables degaussing on user demand through the unit's front panel controls, without switching the unit off and on again. (The relay can often be heard clicking off at the end of the degaussing cycle a few seconds after the monitor is turned on, and on and off during a manually initiated degaussing cycle.)
Vector monitors were used in early computer aided design systems and in some late-1970s to mid-1980s arcade games such as Asteroids. They draw graphics point-to-point, rather than scanning a raster.
Dot pitch defines the maximum resolution of the display, assuming delta-gun CRTs. In these, as the scanned resolution approaches the dot pitch resolution, moir appears, as the detail being displayed is finer than what the shadow mask can render. Aperture grille monitors do not suffer from vertical moir , however, because their phosphor stripes have no vertical detail. In smaller CRTs, these strips maintain position by themselves, but larger aperture grille CRTs require one or two crosswise (horizontal) support strips.
CRTs have a pronounced triode characteristic, which results in significant gamma (a nonlinear relationship in an electron gun between applied video voltage and light intensity).
Other types of CRTs
In better quality tube radio sets a tuning guide consisting of a phosphor tube was used to aid the tuning adjustment. This was also known as a "Magic Eye" or "Tuning Eye". Tuning would be adjusted until the width of a radial shadow was minimized. This was used instead of a more expensive electromechanical meter, which later came to be used on higher-end tuners when transistor sets lacked the high voltage required to drive the device. The same type of device was used with tape recorders as a recording level meter.
Some displays for early computers (those that needed to display more text than was practical using vectors, or that required high speed for photographic output) used Charactron CRTs. These incorporate a perforated metal character mask (stencil), which shapes a wide electron beam to form a character on the screen. The system selects a character on the mask using one set of deflection circuits, but that causes the extruded beam to be aimed off-axis, so a second set of deflection plates has to re-aim the beam so it is headed toward the center of the screen. A third set of plates places the character wherever required. The beam is unblanked (turned on) briefly to draw the character at that position. Graphics could be drawn by selecting the position on the mask corresponding to the code for a space (in practice, they were simply not drawn), which had a small round hole in the center; this effectively disabled the character mask, and the system reverted to regular vector behavior. Charactrons had exceptionally long necks, because of the need for three deflection systems.
Nimo was the trademark of a family of small specialised CRTs manufactured by Industrial Electronics Engineers. These had 10 electron guns which produced electron beams in the form of digits in a manner similar to that of the charactron. The tubes were either simple single-digit displays or more complex 4- or 6- digit displays produced by means of a suitable magnetic deflection system. Having little of the complexities of a standard CRT, the tube required a relatively simple driving circuit, and as the image was projected on the glass face, it provided a much wider viewing angle than competitive types (e.g., nixie tubes).
Nimo tube BA0000-P31
The Williams tube or Williams-Kilburn tube was a cathode ray tube used to electronically store binary data. It was used in computers of the 1940s as a random-access digital storage device. In contrast to other CRTs in this article, the Williams tube was not a display device, and in fact could not be viewed since a metal plate covered its screen.
Zeus thin CRT display
In the late 1990s and early 2000s Philips Research Laboratories experimented with a type of thin CRT known as the Zeus display which contained CRT-like functionality in a flat panel display. The devices were demonstrated but never marketed.
The future of CRT technology
Although a mainstay of display technology for decades, CRT-based computer monitors and televisions constitute a dead technology. The demand for CRT screens has dropped precipitously since 2000, and this falloff has been accelerating in the latter half of that decade. The rapid advances and falling prices of LCD flat panel technology, first for computer monitors and then for televisions, has been the key factor in the demise of competing display technologies such as CRT, rear-projection, and plasma display.
The end of most high-end CRT production by around 2010  (including high-end Sony and Mitsubishi product lines) means an erosion of the CRT's capability. In Canada and the United States, the sale and production of high-end CRT TVs (30-inch screens) in these markets had all but ended by 2007; just a couple of years later, inexpensive combo CRT TVs (20-inch screens with an integrated VHS or DVD player) have disappeared from discount stores. It has been common to replace CRT-based televisions and monitors in as little as 5 6 years, although they generally are capable of satisfactory performance for a much longer time.
Companies are responding to this trend. Electronics retailers such as Best Buy have been steadily reducing store spaces for CRTs. In 2005, Sony announced that they would stop the production of CRT computer displays. Samsung did not introduce any CRT models for the 2008 model year at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show and on February 4, 2008 Samsung removed their 30" wide screen CRTs from their North American website and has not replaced them with new models.
The demise of CRT, however, has been happening more slowly in the developing world. According to iSupply, production in units of CRTs was not surpassed by LCDs production until 4Q 2007, owing largely to CRT production at factories in China.
In the United Kingdom, DSG (Dixons), the largest retailer of domestic electronic equipment, reported that CRT models made up 80 90% of the volume of televisions sold at Christmas 2004 and 15 20% a year later, and that they were expected to be less than 5% at the end of 2006. Dixons ceased selling CRT televisions in 2007.
CRTs, despite recent advances, have remained relatively heavy and bulky and take up a lot of space in comparison to other display technologies. CRT screens have much deeper cabinets compared to flat panels and rear-projection displays for a given screen size, and so it becomes impractical to have CRTs larger than . The CRT disadvantages became especially significant in light of rapid technological advancements in LCD and plasma flat-panels which allow them to easily surpass as well as being thin and wall-mountable, two key features that were increasingly being demanded by consumers.
By 2006, although the price points of CRTs were generally much lower than LCD and plasma flat panels, large screen CRTs (30-inches or more) were as expensive as a similar-sized LCD.
Monochrome CRTs are even less power (but not more efficient) than color CRTs. This is because up to 2/3 of the backlight power of LCD and rear-projection displays are lost to the RGB stripe filter. Most LCDs also have poorer color rendition and can change color with viewing angle, though modern PVA and IPS LCDs have greatly attenuated these problems.
Some CRT manufacturers, both LG Display and Samsung Display, have innovated CRT technology by creating a slimmer tube. Slimmer CRT has a trade name Superslim and Ultraslim. A 21 inch flat CRT has 447.2 millimeter depth. The depth of Superslim is 352 millimeters and Ultraslim is 295.7 millimeters. A comparison between 21 inch Superslim and Ultraslim CRT
Resurgence in specialized markets
In the first quarter of 2008, CRTs retook the #2 technology position in North America from plasma, due to the decline and consolidation of plasma display manufacturers. DisplaySearch has reported that although in the 4Q of 2007 LCDs surpassed CRTs in worldwide sales, CRTs then outsold LCDs in the 1Q of 2008.
CRTs are useful for displaying photos with high pixels per unit area and correct color balance. LCDs, as currently the most common flatscreen technology, have generally inferior color rendition (despite having greater overall brightness) due to the fluorescent lights commonly used as a backlight.
CRTs are still popular in the printing and broadcasting industries as well as in the professional video, photography, and graphics fields due to their greater color fidelity, contrast, and better viewing from off-axis (wider viewing angle). CRTs also still find adherents in video gaming because of their higher resolution per initial cost, lowest possible input lag, fast response time, and multiple native resolutions.
CRTs can emit a small amount of X-ray radiation as a result of the electron beam's bombardment of the shadow mask/aperture grille and phosphors. The amount of radiation escaping the front of the monitor is widely considered unharmful. The Food and Drug Administration regulations in are used to strictly limit, for instance, television receivers to 0.5 milliroentgens per hour (mR/h) (0.13 C/(kg h) or 36 pA/kg) at a distance of from any external surface; since 2007, most CRTs have emissions that fall well below this limit.
Color and monochrome CRTs may contain toxic substances, such as cadmium, in the phosphors. The rear glass tube of modern CRTs may be made from leaded glass, which represent an environmental hazard if disposed of improperly. By the time personal computers were produced, glass in the front panel (the viewable portion of the CRT) used barium rather than lead, though the rear of the CRT was still produced from leaded glass. Monochrome CRTs typically do not contain enough leaded glass to fail EPA tests.
In October 2001, the United States Environmental Protection Agency created rules stating that CRTs must be brought to special recycling facilities. In November 2002, the EPA began fining companies that disposed of CRTs through landfills or incineration. Regulatory agencies, local and statewide, monitor the disposal of CRTs and other computer equipment.
In Europe, disposal of CRT televisions and monitors is covered by the WEEE Directive.
At low refresh rates (below 50 Hz), the periodic scanning of the display may produce an irritating flicker that some people perceive more easily than others, especially when viewed with peripheral vision. Computer displays and televisions with CRTs driven by digital electronics often use refresh rates of 100 Hz or more to largely eliminate any perception of flicker see flicker-free. Non-computer CRTs or CRT for sonar or radar may have long persistence phosphor and are thus flicker free. If the persistence is too long on a video display, moving images will be blurred.
High-frequency audible noise
CRTs used for television operate with horizontal scanning frequencies of 15,734 Hz (for NTSC systems) or 15,625 Hz (for PAL systems). These frequencies are at the upper range of human hearing and are inaudible to many people; however, some people (especially children) will perceive a high-pitched tone near an operating television CRT. The sound is due to magnetostriction in the magnetic core and periodic movement of windings of the flyback transformer. Compare to the low-frequency noise (50 Hz or 60 Hz) of mains hum.
A high vacuum exists within all cathode ray tubes, putting the envelope under relatively high stress. If the outer glass envelope is damaged, the glass will break and pieces will fly out at high speed. While modern cathode ray tubes used in televisions and computer displays have epoxy-bonded face-plates or other measures to prevent shattering of the envelope, CRTs removed from equipment must be handled carefully to avoid personal injury.
Under some circumstances, the signal radiated from the electron guns, scanning circuitry, and associated wiring of a CRT can be captured remotely and used to reconstruct what is shown on the CRT using a process called Van Eck phreaking. Special TEMPEST shielding can mitigate this effect. Such radiation of a potentially exploitable signal, however, occurs also with other display technologies and with all electronics in general.
As electronic waste, CRTs are considered one of the hardest types to recycle. CRTs have relatively high concentration of lead and phosphors (not phosphorus), both of which are necessary for the display. There are several companies in the United States that charge a small fee to collect CRTs, then subsidize their labor by selling the harvested copper, wire, and printed circuit boards. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) includes discarded CRT monitors in its category of "hazardous household waste" but considers CRTs that have been set aside for testing to be commodities if they are not discarded, speculatively accumulated, or left unprotected from weather and other damage.
Leaded CRT glass is sold to be remelted into other CRTs, or even broken down and used in road construction.
Advantages and disadvantages
- High contrast ratio (over 15,000:1), excellent color, fairly wide color range (gamut) and low black level.
- Can display in almost any resolution and refresh rate (within the limitations of the horizontal and vertical sweep rates supported by the complete display).
- No input lag
- Sub-millisecond response times
- Near zero color, saturation, contrast or brightness distortion. Excellent viewing angle.
- Allows the use of light guns/pens
- Large size and weight, especially for bigger screens (a unit weighs about )
- High power consumption. On average, LCD monitors consume 50-70% less energy than CRT monitors.
- Generates a considerable amount of heat when running
- Geometric distortion caused by variable beam travel distances
- Can suffer screen burn-in
- Produces noticeable flicker at low refresh rates
- Small color displays, less than 7 inches diagonal measurement, are relatively costly.
- The maximum practical size for CRTs is around 24 inches for computer monitors; most direct view CRT televisions are 36 inches or smaller, with regular-production models limited to about 40 inches.
- Purity and convergence, affected by the Earth's magnetic field, must be factory preset (biased) for operation in either the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere, or the equatorial area. Adjustment for device resale or relocation outside its preset area requires a high technical skill, as well as safety precautions associated with opening the display housing
- Cathode ray
- Computer monitor
- Comparison CRT, LCD, Plasma
- Comparison of display technology
- Crookes tube
- CRT projector
- Display examples
- Flat panel display
- Image dissector
- LCD television / LED TV
- Monitor filter
- Overscan in Television
- Photosensitive epilepsy
- Raster scan
- Surface-conduction electron-emitter display
- Williams tube
- : Zworykin Television System
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