Electrowetting sounds like some crazy shock therapy to stop your kid from peeing his bed. But don't worry! It's not nearly as messy. But if an electrowetting display isn't a child's worst nightmare, what is it?
E-ink displays dominate the e-reader market, as they simulate paper and are more comfortable to read than traditional LCD displays. The bulk of e-ink displays—including those from E Ink, the company that currently dominates the market—are electrophoretic, using charged titanium particles in oil to create shades of grey. A voltage is applied across each pixel to turn them on and off. Electrowetting displays use the same underlying technology but replace the titanium with layers of colored oil and water.
Because electrowetting displays use colored oil, they can theoretically display up to 16 million colors. This oil and water combination also lets you switch each pixel between a colored and a white (blank) state very quickly. The switch is so fast that electrowetting displays aren't just for catching up on your summer reading—they can play video as well. This is a huge advantage over electrophoretic displays, which switch so slowly you get an annoying flicker when you flip to the next page of your e-book.
Besides color and video playback, electrowetting displays offer an unlimited viewing angle, indoor and outdoor usability and low power consumption. With all these advantages, electrowetting displays may someday—soon—replace the electrophoretic displays on your Kindle or Sony Reader. Samsung is interested in the technology and may be able to modify its existing LCD manufacturing plants to mass produce them by the end of the year.