Rollable, foldable e-devices coming

November 2, 2012
foldable_rollable_edevices

In ten to 20 years, consumers will see foldable/rollable e-devices with magazine-quality color, viewable in bright sunlight but requiring low power, as shown in this photo illustration. UC research is bringing these devices closer. (Credit: University of Cincinnati)

What if a tablet screen were a paper-thin plastic that rolled like a window shade?

University of Cincinnati researchers have now announced experiment verification that such “electrofluidic imaging film” works. The breakthrough is a white, porous film coated with a thin layer of reflective electrodes and spacers that are then subjected to unique and sophisticated fluid mechanics in order to electrically transport the colored ink and clear-oil fluids that comprise the consumer content (text, images, video) of electronic devices.

According to UC’s Matthew Hagedon, “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. 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.”

The screen is the first fluidic displays with no pixel borders. In current technology, colors maintain their image-forming distinctiveness by means of what are known as “pixel borders.” Each individual pixel that helps to comprise the image necessary for text, photographs, video and other content maintains its distinct color and does not bleed over into the next pixel or color due to a pixel border.

The researchers expect that the first-generation foldable e-devices will be monochrome. Color will come later. Eventually, within 10 to 20 years, e-Devices with magazine-quality color, viewable in bright sunlight but requiring low power will come to market.

The device will require low power to operate since it will charge via sunlight and ambient room light. However, it will be so “tough” and only use wireless connection ports, you’ll be able to wash it or drop it without damaging the thin, highly flexible casing and screen.

Currently, faster, color-saturated, high-power devices like a computer’s liquid-cystal display screen, an iPad or a cell phone require high power (and, consequently, a larger battery), in part, because they need a strong internal light source within the device (that “backlights” the screen) as well as color filters in order to display the pixels as color/moving images. The need for an internal light source within the device also means visibility is poor in bright sunlight.

The new electrofluidic imaging film is part of an overall UC design that will require only low-power to produce high speed content and function because it makes use of ambient light vs. a strong, internal light source within the device.

References:

  • Matthew Hagedon, Shu Yang, Ann Russell, Jason Heikenfeld, Bright e-Paper by Transport of Ink through a White Electrofluidic Imaging Film, Nature Communications, 2012