Dutch to help make electronic ink a reality

E Ink Corporation, and Philips Components are to jointly develop high-resolution electronic ink displays for use in smart handheld devices.

Under the terms of a recent agreement, the companies will build a high-resolution electronic ink display prototype. Key to this effort, E Ink will develop electronic ink sheets, which Philips will integrate with active matrix backplanes and drivers.

In return for funding and development assistance, Philips Components will receive the global rights to manufacture and sell handheld display modules using E Ink sheets, and exclusivity on display modules for certain applications, including personal digital assistants (PDAs) and electronic books, for a select period. Commercial development of the display is expected to begin later this year.

E Ink’s electronic ink offers a paper-like look that provides three main benefits over traditional and emerging display technologies:

Because it contains the same colouring agents as normal ink and paper, electronic ink is three to six times brighter than reflective LCDs,exceeds newspapers in contrast ratio and reads easily in both dim light and full sunlight. Like paper, the E Ink display has a clear image that can be seen at any angle without a change in contrast. In addition, special properties of the ink enable smoother text characters than many displays used today.

Electronic ink allows a fixed image to remain on the screen even after the power source is shut off, leading to dramatically longer battery life. The bright paper-white background of electronic ink also eliminates the need for a backlight in most lighting conditions. When commercialized, electronic ink displays should draw less than 1/1000th the power required by a standard notebook computer screen when used for normal reading. As a result, portable devices incorporating E Ink displays could have far smaller batteries making them less expensive and more portable.

Electronic ink displays are expected to be 30 percent thinner and lighter than traditional LCD displays. Because electronic ink displays read like ink on paper, they should cause less eyestrain than most other displays that typically emit or transmit light.