Philips Research has announced that it has developed a new color e-paper technology that the company believes could take product personalization and functionality to whole new levels. The technology doesn’t require backlighting—it looks like conventional paint—but thanks to controllable layers of colored ink, can shift its color and appearance in real time. The e-paper can shift between colors, control the saturation of individual colors, and even go fully transparent. Philips envisions the technology being used to create, say, mobile phones and personal media players with highly customizable (even downloadable) skins that users can change to suit their moods and fashion. Similarly, the technology can be used for more functional purposes: indicating whether a coffee urn was hot or cold, paper pictures that function as digital slide shows, interactive signage, photo albums and e-readers, and more. And Philips says the technology is scalable: imagine electronic wallpaper.
“The first applications using the technology could be e-skins for small devices such as MP3 players or cell phones,” said Philips Principal Scientist Kars-Michiel Lenssen, in a statement. “In the future it will be possible to use e-skins to bring new color and a new aura or ‘vibe’ to much larger equipment.”
The technology behind the color e-paper is similar to that being used in monochrome e-paper products: particles are suspended in a layer within the film, and carry a surface charge. The orientation and motion of the particles can then be controlled via electrophoresis. The color e-paper works by applying the electric field parallel to the surface of the paper, making colored particles spread across the surface of the paper. Each pixel in the paper also can support a gate electrode, which gives control over the density or saturation of the color in a particular area.
Philips plans to present the technology at the International Display Workshops 2009 in Japan this week, and says it is open to licensing to the technology for use in a wide variety of applications.