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Electronic Ink

Page history last edited by Josh Heldman 10 years, 2 months ago

Eletronic Ink!



Welcome to the future of display


The term Electronic Ink (more commonly known as Electronic Paper) covers a wide range of display technologies, all of which are designed to mimic the apperance of regular ink on paper. Unlike conventional displays, electronic paper doesn't use backlighting and instead, reflects light like a normal piece of paper, which some people say make it easier on the eyes when they're reading. It was first introduced as a black-and-white model, but in 2010 E Ink Holdings introduced the E Ink Triton, the first color electronic paper display.


How Does It Work?

Despite being relatively new technology, the first electronic paper display was invented back in the 1970's by Nick Sheridon. It was known as the Gyricon or Twisting Ball Display, and consisted of polyethelene spheres between 75 and 106 micrometers in diameter. Each sphere is a janus particle (as in, made of half black, negatively charged plastic and half white, positively charged plastic, making it a dipole). They were embedded in a transparent, silicon sheet, and the polarity of voltage applied to each pair of electrodes thus determined which side of the particle faced upward. The end result was a black-and-white pixelated apperance.



A cross-sectional display of the Twisting Ball Display


Another type of display (which came later) was the Electrophoretic display. It creates images by rearranging particles using an applied electric field. Quite simply, titanium dioxide particles are dispersed in hydrocarbon oil, containing comapounds designed to lower surface tension and charging agents, along with a dark colored dye, which gives the particles an electric charge. The final conction is placed between two parallel, conductive plates, and when voltage is applied, the particle migrates to the plate that is opposite it's current charge. When the particles are located at the front (viewing) of the display it appears white, and when its at the rear, it appears black. Thus an image can be created by applying an appropriate amount of voltage to each area of the display.



What's Wrong With Paper?!

Realtively speaking, electronic paper is more eco-friendly then your regular paper. Simply reading the news on e-paper rather than a traditional newspaper saves 32-140 times more CO2 and 27 times more H2O. They may also tend to last longer, given that an average textbook in school (technically) only lasts a few years before students (and possibly some teachers) demand replacement. More e-paper would also mean a reduction in regular paper, which leads to a reduction in the number of trees being cut down and forests stripped. The long-term results of that, of course, would be more trees to scrub the air of greenhouses gases. To quote eink.com:


"If we could replace all paper newspapers with eNewspapers tomorrow, it would save 95 million tress that would remove 98 million tons of greenhouse gases every year."


On a smiliar note, electronic paper has also recieved stiff competition from traditional LCD displays, which uses backlighting and are ideal for interactive applications. However, just like with regualr paper, electronic paper would be more preferable for the enviornment. In just 20 hours, a 12-inch LCD display uses the equivalent of 36 AA batteries, while e-paper only uses one, thus saving 60% more energy.

 12-inch LCD-Equipped Device over 20 Hours: 36 AA Batteries. 12-inch E Ink Display Equipped Device over 20 hours: 1 AA Battery.



You all knew this was coming...


While the electronic paper is revolutionary and enviornmentally friendly than the current, trendy display technologies, it is not without its downfalls. For example, e-paper has a very low refresh rate compared to LCD displays. This prevents them from implementing the latest interactive applications, such as fast-moving menus and mouse pointers or scrolling. The zoom function is also problematic because it cannot be done smoothly; the document is either extremely blurry during the process or it simply takes a long time.


Another disadvantage, although miniscule, is the apparent "shadow" of an image that is still present on a screen, even after refreshing. Dubbed "ghost image", it is similar to a screen burn-in on old computer monitors and televisiob sets, it will disappear after several refreshments of the screen.


File:E-ink ghost.jpg

A e-paper display showing the "ghost" of a prior image 


Modern Applications 

The electronic paper has several applications in today's society. In January 2007, the Dutch specialist in e-paper began a pilot program in a secondary school in Maastricht, where they replaced student textbooks with electronic paper copies, in an effort to reduce cost and lighten a student's burden each day of carrying textbooks.


It's also been used in wristwatches. In December 2005, Japanese watch company called Seiko introduced their Spectrum SVRD001 wristwatch, which utilized a flexible, elctrophoretic display, and in March 2010, they released a second generation that included an active matrix display. Smiliarily, Phosphor, based in Hong Kong, also released their own line of electrophoretic watches, launching three different series.


Active Matrix EPD watchNewspapers have also ulitized e-paper, starting with the Flemish daily De Tijd, where they distributed an electronic version of their paper as part of a marketing study, in February of 2006. This was follow by the French daily, Les ├ęchos, in September 2007, which launched a electronic paper version on subscription bases. And since January 2008, the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad is distributed for the iRex iLiad reader.


And finally, probably the most obvious use of the e-paper is the e-book. In 2004, Sony released the first e-book that used an electronic paper display in Japan, which made its way to the US market in September 2006. In late 2007, amazon began production of the Amazon Kindle, and e-book reader with e-paper display, and in 2009, Barnes and Noble announced the Barnes & Noble Nook. Although the latter runs an Android operating system, it differs from other big-name e-books in that it contains an LCD touch screen below the main e-paper display.


Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2 


E-books have gained significant popularity since its launch, with 2010 sales representing 8.32% of the book market compared to 3.2% in 2009. MediaBizBlogger, David Houle, predicts that the e-reader's share of the book market with only continue to increase exponentially over the years, levelling of at 60-75% by the year 2025.


E-Ink is the future!




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