Engineers at the University of Cincinnati have shown that paper can be used as a display screen. To quote from research leader Andrew Steckl, “Nothing looks better than paper for reading. 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-color and at the end of the day or the end of the week, you could pitch it into the trash.”
The proposed e-paper uses electrowetting (a process of moving colored pigments from pixel to pixel using electronic charges) on a paper substrate. Electrowetting consumes lesser power and outperforms the present day E-ink electrophoretic screens in terms of better color, faster response times and video capability.
Firms such as Liquavista and Plastic Logic already are in possession of similar technology, but they employ electrowetting on the surface of glass instead of paper. The researchers at Cincinnati claim that their model offers the same results on paper and at the same time provides greater flexibility at reduced cost.
“One of the main goals of e-paper is to replicate the look and feel of actual ink on paper. We have, therefore, investigated the use of paper as the perfect substrate for EW devices to accomplish e-paper on paper,” claim researchers Steckl and Kim. “In general, this is an elegant method for reducing device complexity and cost, resulting in one-time-use devices that can be totally disposed after use.”
For best results, the EW process involves a specific grade of paper with a particular surface coating, roughness, thickness, water uptake and a precise contact angle at which the electrowetted material is applied to the paper support. Quite obviously, the industrial model of the process is not making its debut anytime sooner than three or five years. Electrowetted glass, on the other hand, may appear sometime in the next year itself.