New color e-reader display tech promises reading in direct sunlight

The University of Cincinnati researchers announce an electrofluidics breakthrough that will let gadgets run on low power.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

A new technology developed in the labs of the University of Cincinnati might make what you see on your cell phone and e-reader look much better -- and help your gadgets run much more efficiently.

The researchers are working with Gamma Dynamics, DuPont, and Sun Chemical to bring the zero-power screen from the lab into devices that you use at home and and hold in your hands.

That way, you can watch video on your e-reader and not have to worry about carrying around a charger to keep your cell phone from running out of juice.

Sure Qualcomm has low power technology that can show video, but the image doesn't come out colorful like the Cincinnati researchers' technology. The UC electronics can be built for "speed, brightness, and low-cost manufacturing," the scientists said.

This screen will likely show up in the aisles of grocery stores as advertisements before they make it into the screens of our gadgets. But when the zero-power screen does roll out into e-readers and mobile phones, they'll become more like iPads, because you'll be able to see content --including video -- in full color, in direct sunlight and using less power to boot.

The scientists say the technology can be manufactured with materials and processes that are already available. This is the most cost-effective way to go about producing it, considering that building a light-emitting diode (LCD) plant from scratch would require a $2 billion investment.

UC researcher Jason Heikenfeld said, "What we've developed creaks down a significant barrier to bright electronic displays that don't require a heavy battery to power them."

Like you see in the picture, the screen has two layers. There's an oil one and one that is kind of like the inkjet in your printer.

The researchers describe this as a mirror. When the light comes in and hits a layer and reflects an image back to the person looking at the screen. A small charge can control the flow of the liquids.

The reason why you can't really see your cell phone in sunlight is because it has an internal light source. Color filters help the images appear as pictures and video.

And e-readers use ambient light so you can see text on the page as the pixels rearrange themselves. The UC technology uses the best of both worlds.

But again, you'll probably see this technology tempting you to buy an apple pie long before it makes its way into your pocket.

The researchers published their study in Applied Physics Letters.

via The University of Cincinnati

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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