EW for disposable video newspapers
Research from the USA’s University of Cincinnati (UC) suggests that disposable, paper-based e-readers will be on sale within the next five years. The recent discovery has the potential to revolutionise the publishing industry and deliver a rollable paper product that can provide high-resolution colour video in bright-light conditions. The e-paper uses electrowetting (EW) techniques to create a low-cost device.
Andrew Steckl, a professor in electrical engineering, conducted research into the affordable, high-performance, paper-based display technology.
In the research, Steckl and UC doctoral student Duk Young Kim demonstrated that paper could be used as a flexible host material for an electrowetting (EW) device. EW involves applying an electric field to coloured droplets within a display in order to reveal content such as type, photographs and video.
“One of the main goals of e-paper is to replicate the look and feel of actual ink on paper,” the researchers stated in an article in scientific journal, Applied Materials and Interfaces. “We have, therefore, investigated the use of paper as the perfect substrate for EW devices to accomplish e-paper on paper.”
The researchers found that the performance of the EW device on paper is equivalent to that of glass.
“It is pretty exciting," said Steckl. “With the right paper, the right process and the right device fabrication technique, you can get results that are as good as you would get on glass, and our results are good enough for a video-style e-reader.”
Steckl imagines a future device that is rollable, feels like paper yet delivers books, news and even high-resolution colour video in bright-light conditions.
“Nothing looks better than paper for reading,” said Steckl. “We hope to have something that would actually look like paper but behave like a computer monitor in terms of its ability to store information. We would have something that is very cheap, very fast, full-colour and at the end of the day or the end of the week, you could pitch it into the trash.”
Disposing of a paper-based e-reader, Steckl points out, is also far simpler in terms of the environmental impact.
Steckl’s goal is attract commercial interest in the technology for next-stage development, which he expects will take three to five years to get to market.
The work was supported, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation and was conducted at the Nanoelectronics Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science.