Scientists create new electronic paper, might show movies
Wednesday, September 24th 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
Scientists have created a new type of ``electronic paper'' that may one day enable books and newspapers to show full-color movies.
Tiny dots packed in columns and rows on the paper can change colors in just one one-hundredth of a second, fast enough that a whole array of these dots could display video images, said Robert A. Hayes, a scientist at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
But before the movies can begin, Hayes said researchers need to devise a system to control each dot's rapid changes.
He said the first products are three or four years away, and would probably have only one color at first.
The findings are reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
``You could see this leading to displays everywhere, the sides of trucks with live displays on them _ like Times Square but moving,'' Robert Wisnieff, senior manager of IBM Corp.'s Advanced Display Technology Laboratory in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. ``Imagine the traffic accidents.''
The electronic paper is not really paper at all, but electronics embedded in a flexible piece of plastic as thin as a sheet of paper. It would have to be connected to a power source, such as a cellphone or a handheld organizer.
The paper's display surface is four times brighter than reflective liquid-crystal displays, such as those seen on mobile phones and personal digital assistants, Hayes said.
The Philips researchers developed two kinds of electronic paper. In the first system, each dot in the experimental paper contains water with a single layer of colored oil, along with an underlying transparent electrode and white foil.
The viewer sees the color of the oil, unless an electrical signal is applied that moves the oil aside. That reveals the white foil underneath.
The researchers have taken that system a step further by creating dots that contain two layers of colored oil. Each of these dots is divided into three compartments, each containing combinations of cyan, magenta or yellow oils.
Each compartment is covered by a colored filter. Its hue depends on the colors of the oils beneath.
These compartments can be switched independently and are capable of displaying a variety of colors. That is achieved by varying which of the two colored oils in each compartment is pushed aside or left in place.
Hayes said this system can display a full palette of red, blue, green, cyan, magenta or yellow and black along with intermediate shades.
The researchers are not the first to produce a form of electronic paper.
But Aris Silzars, former president of the Society of Information Display in San Jose, Calif., said the new material has some advantages over other forms, including its apparent ability to rapidly switch among a range of colors.
If Philips researchers can overcome the technical challenges, he said its first use would probably be in cell phones or handheld organizers.