By Matthew Henry in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS: Sharp Corporation will invest US$3.5 billion in a new LCD manufacturing plant, which will be the first in the world to manufacture tenth-generation LCD glass substrates, capable of producing eight 50-inch panels per sheet.

The new Sakai plant will be significantly larger than the Kameyama 2 plant and was described to CES attendees as being 30 times the size of Yankee stadium.

As well as producing eight 50-inch panels per sheet, the tenth-generation motherglass can also yield fifteen 40-inch panels.

Sharp said big screen LCDs will grow to around 40 per cent of the total LCD sales in the USA by 2011.

The company is forecasting growth in LCD sales in North America from 23 million units in fiscal year 2007 to 30 million units for the year to March 2008 (Japanese fiscal year).

“In order for Sharp to take advantage, Sharp will build a new factory in Sakai city, in Japan, where we can produce large screens with much higher efficiency,” said Sharp chief executive and chairman, Toshihiko Fujimoto.

Sharp said LCD technology had only completed ‘a little more than half’ of its technological evolution, giving LCD "unlimited potential" for years to come, despite many of its rivals beginning to talk about OLED (organic light emitting diode) televisions.

In other Sharp news, the company has confirmed its 108-inch LCD, which was the largest flat panel TV in the world until this morning, when Panasonic unveiled its 150-inch Viera plasma, will go on sale commercially nearly a year after its launch.

The company is also demonstrating its Aquos Net technology, which allows its Aquos televisions to receive information from the web and display it in a sidebar, showing live information such as weather or news headlines, much like the sidebar in Windows Vista.

Aquos Net will be launched in its new SE94 Aquos series models, but the company has only released information for the North American market.