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Individual EFD display pixels, with center pigment reservoir  (Source: UC)
Display produces colors similar to those in print magazines

Digital readers commercially available in the U.S. today all use black and white screens in their e-paper displays. So far there has not been a color screen reader released in the States which can display pages with the color spectrum of a printed magazine (though there has been in Japan). Some researchers believe that colors screens could be the key to taking e-readers to the mainstream user.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have made a breakthrough in electrofluidic display technology (EFD) that could lead to e-readers with true color screens. The breakthrough allows better manipulation of the appearance of pigments via electric switching to produce colors.  The result is a better display, with visual brilliance similar to that of printed media.

The research team says that the EFD technology they have developed could potentially provide better than 85% white-state reflectance. The 85% white-state reflectance is said to be the performance level required for consumers to accept reflective display applications.

UC researcher and professor of electrical engineering Jason Heikenfeld said, "If you compare this technology to what’s been developed previously, there’s no comparison. We’re ahead by a wide margin in critical categories such as brightness, color saturation, and video speed."

The pixel structure of the EFD screen created by the researchers has the ability to reveal or hide pigments with high contrast and video quality speeds. A small reservoir in the center if each pixel holds the pigments until it needs to be displayed.

The breakthrough could one day lead to devices like the Amazon Kindle II with color screens. Heikenfeld said, "This takes the Amazon Kindle, for example, which is black and white, and could make it full color. So now you could take it from a niche product to a mainstream product."

Another nice feature of the screen developed by the researchers is that the optically active layer can be under 15 microns thick, making rollable displays possible, in turn allowing the EFD to be used in diverse products. The researchers see possible uses for the technology in electronic windows and cases for mobile phones and other electronics that can be color tuned at the user's will.

Heikenfeld continued saying, "The ultimate reflective display would simply place the best colorants used by the printing industry directly beneath the front viewing substrate of a display. In our EFD pixels, we are able to hide or reveal colored pigment in a manner that is optically superior to the techniques used in electrowetting, electrophoretic and electrochromic displays."

The research is being published in a paper "Electrofluidic displays using Young–Laplace transposition of brilliant pigment dispersions" and has been underway for several years. To expedite the commercialization of the technology a new company called Gamma Dynamics has been founded with Heikenfeld as principal scientist. Funding for the research was provided by Sun Chemical, Polymer Vision, the National Science Foundation, and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Research partners with UC included Sun Chemical, Polymer Vision, and Gamma Dynamics.

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e-readers are pointless
By invidious on 5/1/2009 9:58:26 AM , Rating: -1
I dont think I can count the number of more functional devices you can get cheaper than an e-reader. Smartphones, netbooks, handheld game concoles seem to spring to mind. All of which are full color, can access the internet, and can display text files.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By Laitainion on 5/1/2009 10:14:32 AM , Rating: 3
True, you *can* read books on any of those devices (as well as do other things) but as someone who owns a Sony E-Reader I wouldn't even consider using any of them to do that. Reading from an electronic reader is much more natural, the screen is bigger than on smartphones and so on, and isn't as bulky as a netbook. Plus the screen isn't back-lit, which is the clincher for me as I find it much easier to read for long periods than I do with an LCD screen.

I agree they're not for everyone, but I love my e-reader and they're far from useless. They're just not multi-purpose devices, which makes them better at what they're meant to do.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By murphyslabrat on 5/1/2009 10:49:58 AM , Rating: 2
I think that the problem with them is that they're a single-purpose device that costs as much as one of the most multi-purpose devices ever made: a laptop. Sure, they have much better battery life and are less bulky, but they're not getting my money until there is a noticeable difference in price.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By monomer on 5/1/2009 11:49:27 AM , Rating: 2
The price of the Kindle is pretty high, but when you realize that it comes with a "Lifetime" 3G data account, the price suddenly looks pretty good.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By mmntech on 5/1/2009 4:40:20 PM , Rating: 2
It all boils down to home much reading you do. I'd say if you only read 15 or fewer books a year, then it's not worth the entry price. Print copies outside of Amazon regularly go on sale and aren't much more than the e-books. Plus there's always libraries and used book shops. Even when I was in university, I'd rarely spend more than $400 a year on books. Besides, even with the lifetime 3G service, it only allows you to download books from Amazon. Most people buying it probably already have access to a Wifi hotspot. It's definitely not for everyone.

The Kindle isn't even available outside the US yet so I have to stick the the previous generation's tech, but hey, it does have infinite battery life.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By shin0bi272 on 5/2/2009 2:55:08 PM , Rating: 2
LOL I dont think I've read 15 books since college!

RE: e-readers are pointless
By Denigrate on 5/1/2009 11:16:53 PM , Rating: 2
You can take your closed loop Sony E-Reader and shove it. I've read hundreds of books on my Nokia 770, and it was a mere $125. Great battery life, and I can connect anywhere that has wifi, watch movies, and play games. The Nokia 810's are even better and finally getting reasonably priced. Why get a device that only does one thing? Useless is what I call the Kindle and all the other e-readers.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By semo on 5/2/2009 7:40:45 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I'm amazed about... how little people understand e-ink (see other post).

As an owner of the Sony reader, can you tell me if the flashing after each page turn give you trouble. I checked it out in a store and would imagine that it would get very annoying after a few hours of reading.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By shin0bi272 on 5/2/2009 2:57:19 PM , Rating: 2
We understand it (most of us) we just dont care. These readers are all designed to do one thing, make reading electronic documents portable. They already have that device its called a printer.

RE: e-readers are pointless
By semo on 5/2/2009 7:04:23 PM , Rating: 2
We understand it
No you don't. If you get it, then explain to me how is a printer (or the media that it generates) portable. With an ereader you can have 100s of books with you on tap almost instantly if you have the device with you.

Eventually when people stop ignoring this technology it can change the way we read news articles and books. That's the most obvious application there could be others as with any new technology

RE: e-readers are pointless
By SublimeSimplicity on 5/1/2009 10:14:13 AM , Rating: 2
Look at this picture and I think you'll notice the difference in the display technology of the devices you mentioned and an e-reader:

RE: e-readers are pointless
By shin0bi272 on 5/2/2009 3:01:38 PM , Rating: 2
To me that was harder to look at than my pc screen. If you like it go for it but that gave me eye strain in a few seconds (not because it was in japanese either).

RE: e-readers are pointless
By chrnochime on 5/1/2009 11:17:33 AM , Rating: 3
...and all of which after reading for too long would cause eye fatigue for a considerable % of the population. Try reading just one hour using the LCD screen, which is probably the best out of the ones you listed. If you can read for that long without eye fatigue, then you're lucky. For others reading that long without going with printed medium or E-reader is just not a fun thing to do. And this is not looking at smart phones and netbook screens which are far smaller...

RE: e-readers are pointless
By rudy on 5/1/2009 8:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
I do it every day you can even turn down the brightness which I do not. I think e readers are a phase technology meant for older people who want it to be more like the news paper which I find harder to read. It is all about what you are used to nothing else. The stupid thing about this and game consoles and media centers and everything else is how we are getting tricked into buying way more electronic devices then we need. 1 laptop can do it all if its a decent one. And that is the lower waste more universal way I had imagined a smart society would have ventured by now. Unfortunately now instead we are stuck with 3 - 5 devices per person. Because people are stupidly buying multiple single use devices with locked in service rather then moving a more universal single device multiple application system.

The only thing that seems to be moving in the right direction is smartphones. Maybe some smart company will get over the stupid idea phones must be small and produce a nice 5- 7 inch phone with atom cpu and full windows that I can do most things besides game on.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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