March 1, 2007 Scientists at Sony have developed an electronic version of ink, currently used in the E-Reader, that enables thousands of books to be carried around in one portable, energy-efficient case. Ink movement is possible because of millions of transparent, liquid-filled spheres sandwiched between a plastic film. Positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles float inside the spheres, depending on how the electrical charge is applied to the plastic. Either the black or white particles move to the front of the spheres, forming crisp patterns of black and white.
Newspapers can be cumbersome, books can take up space, and computer screens can be difficult to read. But now a unique technology may revolutionize the way we read.
E Ink Imaging Film is electronic paper that is currently used in the Sony Reader. Thousands of titles, pictures and audio files can be downloaded into one portable, leather-bound case.
"The, the broadest, most dramatic application is electronic publishing -- the ability to have an entire library in a single electronic book," Michael McCreary tells DBIS. He's a physical organic chemist at E Ink Corporation in Cambridge, Mass.
Once an E Ink page is displayed, the Reader uses virtually no power until the page is turned and, unlike a computer screen, can be read in bright light.
"Basically, the way it works is by moving "ink" around," McCreary says.
Ink movement is possible because of millions of transparent, liquid-filled spheres sandwiched between plastic films. Positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles float inside the spheres, depending on how the electrical charge is applied to the plastic. Either the black or white particles move to the front of the spheres, forming crisp patterns of black and white.
E Ink scientists are now developing ways to revolutionize the newspaper industry. Consumers would hold a paper-like display but be able to download an infinite number of stories.
"In addition to being immediate, it can be customized to you," McCreary says. "Every newspaper doesn't have to be the same."
The Sony Reader can store and display documents like Adobe PDF files, blogs, RSS feeds, photos and e-books. Scientists are also working on ways to use E Ink in supermarket shelf labels and signs along the highway. Its low-level power consumption is also making E Ink popular in cell phones and watches.
BACKGROUND: Sony Reader is a new electronic book device that uses a new display technology called electronic ink. Developed by E-Ink, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., the display provides a natural reading experience with no backlight, unlike reading standard computer screens. Other prospective uses for electronic ink include displays on credit cards that won't break when they are bent; fresh food shelf labels where the price can change throughout the day; and watch and cell phone displays.
HOW IT WORKS: Sandwiched between layers of plastic film are millions of transparent, nearly microscopic liquid-filled spheres about the diameter of a human hair. Inside these "microcapsules" float even tinier black and white particles; the black particles are negatively charged while the white particles are positively charged. Depending on how the electrical charge is applied to the plastic film, either the black or white particles rise to the top of the spheres, forming patterns of black and white. For instance, when a negative electric field is applied, the white particles rise to the top, while the black particles are pulled to the bottom of the spheres. The surface will appear white at that spot. When a positive electric field is applied, the black particles rise to the top, and the white particles are pulled to the bottom, so the surface appears dark in that spot.
BENEFITS: The E-Ink technology is reflective, so it uses almost no power; even large displays will use a minimum amount of electricity. So the Sony Reader need not be turned off; it can be set aside just as one would do with a printed book. The current page remains on the screen without draining any battery power. In fact, a single charge is good for 7,500 page turns. The screen is easily readable outdoors. And E-Ink can be used to coat almost any surface, so it is ideal for flexible display applications. Also, studies have shown that users reported increased readability and minimal eyestrain compared to other electronic book technology.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and IEEE-USA contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.