Low-power, foldable electronic devices are starting to look like a realistic prospect, thanks to the development of a paper-thin screen made of plastic.
University of Cincinnati researchers have been testing an 'electrofluidic imaging film' which they say really works. It's a white, porous film coated with a thin layer of reflective electrodes and spacers that uses sophisticated fluid mechanics to electrically transport colored ink.
"This is the first of any type of electrowetting display that can be made as a simple film that you laminate onto a sheet of controlling electronics," says doctoral student Matthew Hagedon.
" Manufacturers prefer this approach compared to having to build up the pixels themselves within their devices, layer by layer, material by material. Our proof-of-concept breakthrough takes us one step closer to brighter, color-video e-Paper and the Holy Grail of rollable/foldable displays."
One nice feature of the paper-thin screen is that it's the first fluidic display to eliminate pixel borders, used in current systems to make sure colors maintain their image-forming distinctiveness.
They're basically 'dead areas' that dull any display of information, whether text or images.
"For example, the pixel border in current electrowetting displays, which prevents ink merging, takes up a sizable portion of the pixel. This is now resolved with our electrofluidic film breakthrough," says professor Jason Heikenfeld.
" Furthermore, our breakthrough provides extraordinary capability to hide the ink when you don't want to see it, which further cranks up the available brightness and color of the display when you do want to see it. With a single, new technology, we have simplified manufacturability and improved screen brightness."
Devices should be low-power enough to charge via sunlight and ambient room light; and would be tough enough to be washed or dropped. Monochrome devices could appear pretty soon; color, though, could take another ten years.