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Make Brighter, Full-Color Electronic Readers? — Brilliant!


Electrofluidic Display Technology developed at the University of Cincinnati puts electronic book readers ahead by a wide margin.

Date: 4/29/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826

UC ingot   For the first time “e-paper” will achieve the brilliance of printed media, as described in the May issue of "Nature Photonics."

The pixel structure is able to reveal or hide the pigments with high contrast and video speed. The reservoir (center circle) holds the pigment until it is ready to be displayed by application of voltage. Photo credit: Gamma Dynamics LLC

Thinking about getting an e-reader but not sure if you like reading the dim screen? An international collaboration of the University of Cincinnati, Sun Chemical, Polymer Vision and Gamma Dynamics has announced Electrofluidic Display Technology (EFD), the first technology to electrically switch the appearance of pigments in a manner that provides visual brilliance equal to conventional printed media.

This new entry into the race for full-color electronic paper can potentially provide better than 85 percent “white-state reflectance,” a performance level required for consumers to accept reflective display applications such as e-books, cell-phones and signage.

“If you compare this technology to what’s been developed previously, there’s no comparison,” says developer Jason Heikenfeld, assistant professor of electrical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and director of the Novel Devices Laboratory at UC. “We’re ahead by a wide margin in critical categories such as brightness, color saturation and video speed.”

Jason Heikenfeld, Russell Schwartz, DIC's Koji Oe and Sun's Cynthia Arnold.
Heikenfeld hosted co-author Russell Schwartz and Cynthia Arnold from Sun Chemical as well as Koji Oe, the president of Sun Chemical's parent company, DIC Corporation. (Photo by Ashley Kempher)

This work, which has been underway for several years, has just been published in the paper “Electrofluidic displays using Young–Laplace transposition of brilliant pigment dispersions.

Lead author Heikenfeld explains the primary advantage of the approach.

“The ultimate reflective display would simply place the best colorants used by the printing industry directly beneath the front viewing substrate of a display,” he says. “In our EFD pixels, we are able to hide or reveal colored pigment in a manner that is optically superior to the techniques used in electrowetting, electrophoretic and electrochromic displays.”

Because the optically active layer can be less than 15 microns thick, project partners at PolymerVision see strong potential for rollable displays. The product offerings could be extremely diverse, including electronic windows and tunable color casings on portable electronics.

Jason Heikenfeld with student Linlin Hou, doctoral candidate.
Jason Heikenfeld watches doctoral student Linlin Hou work with the pigments. (Photo by Dottie Stover)

Furthermore, because three project partners are located in Cincinnati (UC, Sun Chemical, Gamma Dynamics), technology commercialization could lead to creation of numerous high-tech jobs in southwest Ohio.

To expedite commercialization, a new company has been launched: Gamma Dynamics with founding members of this company being John Rudolph as president (formerly of Corning), Kenneth Dean as CTO (of Northwestern University), and Heikenfeld as principal scientist.

“This takes the Amazon Kindle, for example, which is black and white, and could make it full color,” Heikenfeld says. “So now you could take it from a niche product to a mainstream product.”

Funding for this work was provided by Sun Chemical, PolymerVision, the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Other news about Jason Heikenfeld and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Jason Heikenfeld

Signs of Things to Come in Display Technology
In the home of the history of signs, the University of Cincinnati and Transitions Digital Graphics unveiled the future of sign technology.

Dynamic See-Through Display Technology Sheds Light on Sign Industry
UC and Transitions Digital Graphics introduce a novel transparent and emissive signage technology/product, a major innovation and entirely new medium for architectural design.

Statehouse Showcase: UC Displays Research Aimed at Helping Ohio’s Economy
State leaders took a hands-on approach to learning about UC research during a Feb. 18 showcase of university projects that have already proven – or hold strong promise for – helping Ohio’s economy.

Listen to Jason Heikenfeld's Interview with WVXU's Ann Thompson on Focus on Technology