Disposable e-paper prototyped

A disposable e-reader could be on the cards, following the discovery that paper makes just as good a host material as glass.

Electrowetting – the process of applying an electric field to colored droplets within a display – is the process commonly used to reveal content such as type, photographs and video on an e-reader.

And now University of Cincinnati electrical engineering professor Andrew Steckl has demonstrated that electrowetting is just as effective with a paper substrate, so long as the right paper, process and fabrication technique are used.

“One of the main goals of e-paper is to replicate the look and feel of actual ink on paper,” the researchers point out. “We have, therefore, investigated the use of paper as the perfect substrate for EW devices to accomplish e-paper on paper.”

Future devices could be rolled up and shoved in a pocket, and could feel like paper while delivering books, news and even high-resolution color video in bright-light conditions.

“We hope to have something that would actually look like paper but behave like a computer monitor in terms of its ability to store information,” says Steckl. “We would have something that is very cheap, very fast, full-color and at the end of the day or the end of the week, you could pitch it into the trash.”

Disposing of a paper-based e-reader, Steckl says, doesn’t have too much of an environmental impact.He hopes to attract commercial interest in the technology for next-stage development, and reckons he could have a product on the market in three to five years.