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Electronic paper gets high resolution

28 May 2003

US-based displays developer E Ink unveils its latest prototype - an electronic book.

E Ink, the US-based developer of paper-like electronic displays, revealed its latest prototype – an electronic book – at the Society for Information Display (SID) show in Baltimore, US, last week.

Working with Philips, the giant consumer electronics company headquartered in the Netherlands, E Ink has developed the engineering samples for a lead customer.

It is the first prototype of a high-resolution paper-like display to be built using commercial-grade components. The resolution is 160 pixels per inch, which E Ink says is significantly higher than than anything similar yet demonstrated.

“This is the first time that E Ink and Philips have integrated such custom components into a fully-functional display and it is a major milestone in our progress towards commercialization,” said Jim Veninger of Philips’ displays business unit.

The current prototype is housed in a dual-display electronic reader case, but E Ink says that its customers will ultimately design the form and function of the end product.

Mass production of electronic ink modules for E Ink’s lead customer is expected early next year, with the company predicting broad commercial distribution of products later in 2004.

E Ink’s displays feature a layer of electrophoretic liquid sandwiched between a pair of flexible electrodes. Millions of microcapsules, containing a mixture of dye and pigment, are suspended in the liquid. Driven by a thin-film transistor (TFT) array, the light or dark appearance of each pixel can be switched by altering the polarity of the electrode.

The latest prototypes are just 0.3 mm thick, and are flexible enough to be rolled up like a magazine. Recent work by E Ink researchers has demonstrated that the optical characteristics of the displays is maintained when flexed.

E Ink’s Darren Bischoff told OLE that the flexible backplanes used in the displays will give product designers an entirely new design freedom, making curved displays for applications like cell phones and pagers possible.

“Even our early research demonstration shows the feasibility of high-resolution felxible displays using standard materials and processes,” he said.

Bischoff adds that the power consumption of the devices is very low, since power is only required to change the image. “No power is required to hold an image on the display,” he said. “The product designer can integrate the latest battery technology and choose between longer-life batteries or smaller ones.”

Author
Michael Hatcher is technology editor on Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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