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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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