Philips is no stranger to teasing us with amazing color e-paper promises and concepts. They did it in 2007, in 2008, and again this weekend with an example that could make LCD screens feel inadequate.
As I said above, color e-paper boasts and chest thumping from the Philips camp is nothing new. However, this current concept (and really, this is still another pipe dream concept for now) uses a completely new technique that preserves screen resolution by literally turning the traditional pixel model on its head.
For some background, existing e-ink tech in devices like Sony's Reader and the Amazon Kindle use electrophoresis. This technique sees white particles suspended in a dark liquid. When an electric field is passed through them, they get happy, more vertically up and down, and you can read Stephen King on your Kindle.
But those crazy Philips folk in Amsterdam vaulted over all that and implemented "in-plane electrophoretics" so that they could move multi-color bits about horizontally, not vertically. The result could very well rival LCD screens someday:
Each pixel is made up of two microcapsule chambers: one containing yellow and cyan particles, the other, below, containing magenta and black particles. Within each microcapsule, one set of colored particles is charged positively while the other is charged negatively.
By carefully controlling the voltages at electrodes positioned on the edges of the pixels, it is possible to spread the colored particles across the pixel or remove them from view altogether by hiding them behind the electrodes, says Lenssen. This means that different shades of color can be achieved by controlling how many of each group of colored particles are visible. To create white, all of the particles are simply shifted to the side to reveal the white substrate beneath the two microcapsules.
There's more all all this in our fine Giz Explains feature about the absence of a "perfect" eReader, which you should check out.
Which leads to the inevitable caveat. This tech is "in its infancy," not ready, and about three years off, if not more. In the meantime, Amazon would like you to save the newspaper industry by giving them a $500 donation (ed. Note - Last line inspired by Mark Wilson's Twitter feed.) [Technology Review - Thanks, Ron]