Wednesday, October 17, 2007

E-paper History: An Interview with Nick Sheridon, Father of E-paper

In the 1970s, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC) was a powerhouse of innovation. Many aspects the modern computer, namely the mouse, laser printer, Ethernet, GUI, computer-generated color graphics, as well as a number of important computer languages, were invented at PARC around that time. Yet another development, nearly lost among those important breakthroughs, was invented in 1974 by PARC employee Nicholas K. Sheridon. The Gyricon, a Greek term for rotating image, was to be new display technology for the Alto personal computer; eventually, it became the basis for modern e-paper technology.

Nearly 35 years later, TFOT sat down with Nick Sheridon to ask him about his historic invention.

In the late 60s and early 70s, Xerox PARC was developing and attempting to get Xerox management to appreciate the Alto personal computer; they never did. It was the world's first office and word-processing computer, but this remarkable machine had one serious drawback: the cathode-ray tube display it used—the best available—was not bright enough, and the contrast was not great. People that used the machine did so in a darkened room, with the lights turned off and the window shades drawn. Several of us scientists were asked to try to find a better display, hopefully one that could permit operation in a brightly lit ambient. I invented the Gyricon rotating-ball display and a display based on a physical phenomenon I called “electrocapillarity.” The electrocapillarity display worked by moving colored liquids against a white background. The rest of the group worked on electrophoretic displays (eventually dropped due to lifetime problems).

A piece of history: one of the first Gyricon material to be made, about 2 centimeters on a side from the 1974 era. The image was produced by placing an
A piece of history: one of the first pieces of Gyricon material to be made, about 2
centimeters on a side from the 1974 era. The imagewas produced by placing an "X" shaped electrode on the Gyricon sheet and applying a voltage. Normally, the Gyricon
does not save images for 30+ years, but a special procedure was used in this case
to save the image.

I codeveloped the Gyricon and electrocapillarity displays for about 18 months and finally decided the Gyricon would be easier to develop. Hoping to get back to the electrocapillary display, I delayed applying for patents until the early 90s. When my patent applications were laid open in Europe, a university group revived the work and changed the name to “electrowetting.” Electrowetting is widely studied and is considered a promising candidate for electronic paper. I published a paper on the Gyricon and made several presentations. Several patents were applied for. About this time, I met the Xerox head of corporate research in the PARC cafeteria. He complimented me on my display work but pointed out that Xerox was not in the display business. At this point, I realized the Alto was not going to be developed by Xerox. He strongly urged me to invent new printer technology to counter the erosion of the Xerox copier/printer market by the Japanese.

I stopped the Gyricon work and eventually invented a new electronic-printing technology based on ionography. This became a large program at Xerox, consuming perhaps $150 million; this number is hard to establish. We developed and were in early-manufacturing operations of the world's first multifunction desktop machine—printer, copier, input scanner, and fax—when this program was cancelled. This left me free to invent the concept of electronic paper.

Much has been written about the incredible myopia of Xerox executives of the time, so I won't go into that except to say that there were numerous other opportunities to enormously expand Xerox's business that were similarly fumbled. Xerox had enough money to create an incredible research lab with top-notch people, but Xerox management could not shake off the copier mentality.

Via TFOT. Read the complete interview here

Photonic-Ink Technology Under Development

The Toronto based Start-Up Company Opalux has developed a new type of electronic ink, based on photonic crystals called P-ink. The new crystal-based e-paper can display colors in a way that current technology has not enabled until now. This promising technology, which is just taking its first steps, could become commercial within the next two years, promising low power consuming, low cost, color rich, electronic paper displays.

According to Professor Geoffrey A. Ozin from the Department of Chemistry in the University of Toronto, who developed the new photonic crystals with Opalux, P-Ink is made of a metallopolymer opal gel. The metallopolymer opal gel reversibly swells and shrinks when electricity is applied or removed. Another similar photonic crystal developed by Ozin is called Elast-Ink. Elast-Ink is made of an elastomeric opal that undergoes reversible dimensional changes in accordance with the mechanical force applied to it.

Until now, photonic crystals only reflected a very specific wavelength that could not be changed after the crystal was formed. Opalux was able to produce a photonic crystal that is electrically tunable, meaning that is can reflect different wavelengths. Because the crystals are able to reflect light in many wavelengths, they can display an array of colors, ranging from Ultra-Violet to Infra-Red, and including the entire visible spectrum of light. The photonic crystals are embedded within a sponge-like electro-active polymer, which is laid between electrodes. An electrolyte fluid controls the electricity applied to the crystals.

According to Opalux, their photonic crystals technology has many advantages, including high brightness, low power consumption, a relatively quick response time (Opalux states sub-second switching speed - sufficient for text and images but not for video), potential flexibility and durability. Cost, which is a major factor in current electronic paper technology, should increase only linearly in accordance with the size of the e-paper.

Opalux is currently working on developing the first prototype e-paper based on P-ink technology, aimed at the commercial billboard market.

Opalux has demonstrated reverse opal films that permit mechanical activation of optical properties from IR, through visible to the UV range.
Opalux has demonstrated reverse opal films that permit mechanical activation of optical properties from IR, through visible to the UV range.
A second technology currently under development by Opalux is based on Elast-Ink, which according to the company, can be activated by mechanical pressure alone. According to the company, the Elast-Ink can be used without electrical power or an attached network and includes visible (color) instant verification. The technology could be used for a variety of biometric-based security devices that require very low or even no power at all.

via TFOT


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

E Ink Raises $16 Million Funding

E Ink Corp., a Cambridge, Mass.-based provider of electronic paper display technologies, has raised $16 million in "Series B" venture funding, according to a regulatory filing. The company has now raised over $130 million in total VC funding since its 1997 inception.

Shareholders include FA Technology Ventures, Intel Capital, Motorola, Special Situations Funds, Hearst Communications and Toppan Printing Co.

Via Pehub


Les Echos first French electronic newspaper edition daily on iRex iLiad

Les Echos, the French leading newspaper in electronic newspaper publishing and iRex Technologies, the Dutch pioneer in electronic paper solutions would like to announce their cooperation in introducing the Les Echos electronic paper edition on the iRex iLiad for the French market by September 2007.
Subscribers of Les Echos newspaper and interested new subscribers will get an attractive offer from Les Echos to enjoy their daily newsmagazine on an iLiad electronic paper device. Two different editions: Les Echos and AFP, updated every hour (7am – 9pm) from Monday to Friday via the WiFi delivery direct into the electronic paper device, without the need for a PC.

Statement Philippe Jannet: “This will introduce a new era of newspaper publishing. It is a tradition of Les Echos to be the first to bring innovative solutions to their readers. With the subscription our readers will get an attractive offer of a year subscription of Les Echos with multiple editions, two free e-paper editions (one dedicated to Personal Finance information and one to Stock Exchange information), an extra AFP edition, some free e-books and the electronic paper device at a great bargain.”

On behalf of iRex Technologies BV, Willem Endhoven, VP of marketing and Business development comments: “We have envisioned for some time the potential of electronic paper solutions for the newspaper industry. We are very pleased that, in cooperation with Les Echos, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the whole system of content delivery of multiple editions per day over Internet. Together with Les Echos we made it attractive to their readers to receive this advanced portable device that reads like paper for your books, notes, documents and now also: your newspaper. This will set the trend in the newspaper industry.”

About Les Echos
Founded in 1908, the French daily newspaper Les Echos is the paper of reference for business leaders.
Les Echos has a circulation of 140,313 (OJD 2005) and is read by 486,000 business leaders and decision-makers (IPSOS FCA 2007). The editorial staff is made up of 190 journalists (with 12 foreign correspondents) and approximately 40 regional correspondents.

Created in 1996, is the leading French business and financial web site. It provides all the up-to-date financial news and related date, including the markets and business information. is the first
information website in Europe, exploring a hybrid model (free content paid by advertising and content reserved to website subscribers). Today have more than 25,000 subscribers, more than 1.5 million unique visitors/month and is one of the rare information website to be profitable.

Providing the ideal complement to the paper edition and the website, this new mobile e-paper reader combines the reading quality of the paper, the advantages of mobility, instantaneous updating and the rich content of the internet.

Press contact Les Echos:
Sonia Khatchadourian
Phone : +33 1 49 53 65 47 / 66 12
Fax: +33 1 43 59 00 02
For more information about the e-paper offer of Les Echos see

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sony's PRS-505 eBook reader now available

You can get it in two flavors here for only $299!

If you wonder what are some of the most important changes between the old and the new reader here is the official answer:

1. The PRS-505 has a new screen that has a faster refresh than the PRS-500's screen and is also a bit lighter. The new screen also supports 8 shades of gray vs. 4 on the PRS-500.

2. The User interface is much improved with:

* Page turn buttons moved the right side of the Reader
* The Numerical numbers now match up against the screen so when menus are displayed the appropriate button is to the right of the entry.
* The Menu key is now by itself and clearly marked
* The Jog stick is gone replace with four way arrow buttons and a center enter button.

3. Books have become easier to search as there are now tools that sort the books into alphabetical groupings for Titles or Authors.

4. The PRS-500 had a single storage media slot that could handle both SD or Memory Sticks. These cards could support either 2GB (SD) or 4GB (MS) for a maximum external storage of up to 4GB. The PRS-505 has two slots in parallel that allow for SD and Memory Stick Duo cards. These cards can support up to 2GB (SD) and 8GB (Memory Stick Duo). Because there are two separate slots the total amount of external storage the PRS-505 can support is up to 10GB.

5. The USB functionality is much improved

* The PRS-505 supports the USB 2.0 standards which allow for faster transfer of data.
* The PRS-505 can be charged when the battery is empty from the USB port of almost any PC even if there is no software loaded on it. The PRS-500 needed to be plugged into a PC running pre-installed software before it can charge and even then it could not charge if the internal Reader's battery was dead.
* The PRS-505 works as a mass storage device so you can plug it right into your PC and transfer unsecured files without the need of eBook Library software.

6. The Connect Reader software is being replaced with "eBook Library v 2.0" which does look and work much like the older software. The only noticeable difference is that with a PRS-505 the new software can use a new Auto-sync feature. Please note that the PRS-505 cannot work with the older Connect Reader software.

With a compact and lightweight design you can take the Reader Digital Book almost anywhere. And with plenty of internal memory9 and a slot for optional removable memory cards, you can take hundreds of titles, user-selected Web content or other supported documents for reading on the go5. It will hold approximately 160 averaged sized eBooks in internal memory4 and hundreds more with optional removable memory cards.