E-Paper Gradually Moves from Sci-Fi to Here and Now

Carl Weinschenk

Electronic paper, or e-paper, is one of those technologies, like transmitted holograms, that is stuck rather uncomfortably between the sci-fi future and the real-life now. At least it seems that way to most of us. For those in the business, however, e-paper is here. That sort of reality usually is followed by an explosion of marketing dollars and attention and, as if overnight, the technology is here for everyone.

Smarter Technology ran through an interesting list of how electronic paper can be used. E-labels-displays that replace the product pricing and information on store shelves-can save money and time. Color e-paper, when it is ready, will save money over traditional e-readers. E-paper, the story says, can outperform LCDs in billboards. In what may be the best application, roll-up e-newspaper may be ready in three to five years. That may be just the thing the newspaper industry, which is barely hanging on, needs.

There is news in the e-paper world. Last month, SlashGear posted a look at NoteSlade, a tablet featuring an e-paper touchscreen display. The device, which will cost $99, has some rudimentary color features, according to the story. Initially, only one of four colors-red, blue, green and black-will be available on a specific NoteSlade. There are plans for models with all the colors. The 13-inch screen has a 750 x 1080 pixel resolution.

This Softpedia piece is a bit dated-it's from late last summer-but it gives a good background. The story says that LG is working on two e-paper projects. One is a 9.7-inch display that will support color and the other will a flexible (though probably not foldable) 19-inch display that will be .3 millimeters thick and weigh 130 grams.

At least some companies see a future in e-paper. In December, Samsung acquired a company called Liquavista. The story describes the approach to e-paper that the company, a 2006 spin-off from Philips Research Labs, is taking:

The electrowetting technology, which operates in transmissive, reflective, transparent and transflective modes, enables the creation of displays with bright, colorful images with dramatically reduced power consumption. Offering more than twice the transmittance of LCD technology and able to operate at low frequencies, displays utilizing electrowetting consume just 10 percent of the battery power of existing display technologies.

The story says that electrowetting, which can be used for e-paper and transparent display, can be made by modifying LCD production lines-something that Samsung owns, of course. The deal could set the company up as a contender in next-generation display technology.

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