More than a year ago I wrote a post all about a technique that can offer real colour to ereaders, colour that would work no matter how bright the ambient lighting is, and is fast enough to compete with LCD screens as well. Well this miraculous technique is called electrowetting, and it seems that it is nearing production on a sensible scale finally.
As you can see from the short video here, the colour it offers is as bright and rich enough as one could wish, the refresh rate (how quickly it can change screens) is fast enough to show videos in full colour and generally it is apparently the best thing since the invention of the sliced loaf. Further, as with e-Ink displays, it works perfectly well in bright sunlight, unlike LCD screens that fade away to blackness in bright light.
As with e-Ink screens, electrowetting is not a form of back lit computer screen, but more like paper in that it reflects light that falls on it, and not using light that shines through it from behind… Front lit, rather than back lit in other words.
When you add all the above qualities to the fact that it has the same sort of battery drain as a normal monochrome ereader using e-Ink, then you realise we are looking at a serious contender to become the screen technology that all digital devices with any sort of display can use (Tablets, digital watches, ereaders, laptops and so on). One of the main problems with iPads and their ilk is the very short battery endurance they have, partly owing to the heavy drain on them caused by their screens continually refreshing themselves.
Well with electrowetting this is not the case..
So, with any luck, later this year we might well see the first ereaders and tablets coming on the market with superb colour from their electrowetting screens.
I also rather like this technology, as it is is actually a very old one, and has sort of been rediscovered as a need arose for such a system.. And using such simple ideas also appeals to me. Electrowetting is in and off itself an intriguing phenomena, well worth looking at just for the fun of knowing how things work.
So, how does it work?
Liquavista, one of the main companies developing this technology explain it thus:-
Electrowetting is a microfluidic phenomena that is currently enjoying explosive growth as a driving mechanism for a wide range of fluidic and electro-optic applications.
Electrowetting involves modifying the surface tension of liquids on a solid surface using a voltage. By applying a voltage, the wetting properties of a hydrophobic surface can be modified and the surface becomes increasingly hydrophilic (wettable).
With Electrowetting displays, the modification of the surface tension is used to obtain a simple optical switch by contracting a colored oil film electrically. Without a voltage, the colored oil forms a continuous film and the color is visible to the consumer. When a voltage is applied to the display pixel the oil is displaced and the pixel becomes transparent. When different pixels are independently activated, the display can show content like an photograph or a video.
We can also use this transmissive pixel as the basis for reflective of transflective displays.
The high switching speed (a few milliseconds) of electrowetting and its applicability to small (pixel) dimensions means that electrowetting is ideally suited for application to displays showing video content.
So, now you know…..
Link to my earlier post: Electrowetting
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So, will you rush out and buy the first ereader or tablet that comes online with an electrowetting screen?