The term “electrofluidic” conjures up worrisome visions of a mix of electricity and water, but it’s actually the rather nifty technology being demonstrated by start-up Gamma Dynamics as the future of electronic paper. It’s exciting because it’s the closest approximation yet to “real” printing.
Electronic paper, synonymous with electronic ink, is widely touted as the future of display technology: It makes more sense in our digital world, and the environmental impact of reams and reams of paper being “wasted". But my feelings about e-paper tend to waver, since it’s all very exciting but the product just doesn’t feel or look like the real thing.
Yet Gamma Dynamics new display tech just might change my mind. The current crop of electrophoretic displays, work pretty well and have low power consumption, but have just 40% reflectance of ambient light–not at all as high as the light scattered back from a real sheet of paper. GD’s new electrofluidic works with 55% reflectance, and the company is confident it can raise that to 85%, meaning it’ll be the closest to resembling ink on paper ever made.
It works by having a minuscule reservoir of pigment hidden in the center of a hollow display pixel: when a voltage is applied, the pigment splurges out to fill the pixel in a controlled manner, turning the pixel from transparent to opaque. It’s simple, and the optically active layer is just 15 microns deep, meaning its also possible to make the display very flexible. Better yet, the technology can reproduce thousands of colors, and has a pixel response time of just 1 milli-second: fast enough to shame the average LCD monitor, and light years ahead of the display tech used to power the Kindle.
It’s a prototype, sure, but the inventing team at the University of Cincinnati was confident enough to spin out Gamma Dynamics to commercialize the tech: let’s hope it makes its way into e-readers sometime soon.