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Electrowetting Promises Power-Sipping, Daylight Readable Color Displays 63

Dutch researchers are working on a new application of an old technology that could mean bright color displays that draw much less power than conventional LCDs, according to the BBC. In this application, an instance of a technique known as electrowetting, droplets of colored oil in suspension are the basis for the display's colors; each pixel's color is determined by moving the colored oils with electrical current. A prototype reader from Dutch firm Liquivista is shown in the accompanying video; color magazines with 50-60hz refresh time using this display technology are at least a few years out, though. Significantly, these screens are daylight readable, which makes me wonder how they compare to Pixel-Qi style screens in power draw, brightness, and maximum density.
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Electrowetting Promises Power-Sipping, Daylight Readable Color Displays

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  • 1st (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From TFA: Can be build using existing LCD production setups - that's a pretty huge advantage; hope this isn't vapor.

    • Time to invest in those solar tubes to get the sunlight down into the basement for us then.

    • by euyis ( 1521257 )
      Will it also have the dead pixels, like LCDs?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JohnBailey ( 1092697 )
      Not on sale yet, but there is a working prototype. So perhaps like flexible e-ink and OLED monitors.. Pre production isn't really vapour ware. Saw it on demonstrated on Click yesterday. The colour isn't as bright as normal LCD and there is a bit of ghosting, but it is supposed to give significantly lower power consumption even with a back light, so the power saving alone will be an advantage for long life products. Not just e-book readers. The all day laptop is edging ever closer.
    • by Barryke ( 772876 )


      From TFA: Can be build using existing LCD production setups - that's a pretty huge advantage; hope this isn't vapor

      For starters, i can assure you the city Eindhoven in the Netherlands really exists.

  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @02:45PM (#31800804)

    Notice the movie they use for the demo - Blender Foundation's Big Buck Bunny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Better then being sued by sony for using a music video :)

    • Ton Roosendaal being Dutch probably made that an easier choice for the researchers, I imagine.

    • by JohnBailey ( 1092697 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:10PM (#31802824)
      I've seen it in quite a few places recently. It's not a random choice. It's royalty free clip available in just about any format or resolution. So basically, do what you like so long as you don't claim it as your own work. And as it isn't advertising anything, it can be used by the BBC too. Even test clips can have some kind of copyright attached, and can bite you in the bum when you are demoing something on TV or in public. BBB is 100% safe to use for tech demos without paying a fee, or asking specific permission.
  • Daylight readable? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Who cares. Just work at night and sleep during daylight. Problem solved.

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:09PM (#31800888) Homepage

    The Flemish artist Jan van Eyck is often (exaggeratedly) credited with "inventing" oil paint. He did greatly pioneer its use in the fifteenth century.

  • Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:12PM (#31800904) Homepage Journal

    If its low power and cheaper then LCD or E-ink, lets hope it continues. Might even be more earth friendly.

    And hey, i see big buck bunny :)

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:15PM (#31800918) Journal
    Last time I heard about such a technology, it was organic LEDs. They're finally available after many years, but still obscenely expensive. Why should I believe in this next breakthrough? I'm not holding my breath for this one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 )

      > I'm not holding my breath for this one.

      Sorry to hear that. We were looking forward to seeing you turn blue again.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      OLED's still end up fighting for contrast with ambient illumination, and would likely get washed out completely when reading outside in daylight while waiting for a bus, for example.
    • LCD costs and energy use have been consistently coming down for years now. At some point this sort of stuff is an inevitability if the trends continue.

  • display technologies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by svirre ( 39068 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:18PM (#31800940)

    IEEE spectrum had a good article in march on display technologies: []

  • Killer name.

    Sounds like a combination of Cyberpunk [] and Depends []

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If that's the case, definitely something for iPad 2.0

  • Eindhoven == Philips (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MonoSynth ( 323007 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:35PM (#31801042) Homepage

    The guy in the video mentioned that the firm is based in Eindhoven, where Philips' headquarters are located. After some googling I found out that Liquivista is indeed a spinoff of this company and therefore not a 'real' startup.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bender_ ( 179208 )

      Aren't start-ups almost always spinoffs of a university or research institute? Liquavista is a spin-off of what used to be Philips Research (Natlab), one of last strongholds of real industrial research in Europe. It used to be a pretty amazing place, maybe the closest of what Europe had to the Bell Labs. Unfortunately it was messed up pretty badly during the last decade due to various splits, carve outs and a general move away from industry backed research.

    • I had an intern-ship at Philips Natlab in 1997, working on electrowetting for displays in x-ray in their micromechanics department. We worked closely together with the guys investigating organic semiconductors for display technology. I worked on organic semiconductors during my Master Thesis at the University of Groningen.

      My point is that from what I've seen, these things take a long time to get anywhere near market ready even if you have a working prototype. I hope they succeed.

      I also think it's typical of

  • Electrowetting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anti_Climax ( 447121 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @04:36PM (#31801370)

    After "Hot Electron Injection", Electrowetting has to be one of the sexiest technology terms I've heard in recent years...

  • by Miros ( 734652 ) *
    Isn't this very similar to the way eInk [] works?
  • flicker-free? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nanamin ( 820638 )
    Would this be flicker-free? The article talks about refresh rates, but I'm not quite sure what this means in this context.

    I have neurological problems and will lose consciousness if I look at any sort of flickering display, including CRTs. For some reason, plasma screen TVs also affect me (despite not "flickering" per se), and currently the only type of display I seem to be able to safely look at are regular LCD TVs/flatscreen monitors, with LED-lit screens giving me the least amount of trouble.

    Even f
    • by Barryke ( 772876 )

      Must be very frustrating. What is your disability called?

      I imagine you'd like some motion-blur glasses.. how do you cope with the streets and airports lined with displays?

      • by nanamin ( 820638 )
        It is rather frustrating. I can't be under any sort of fluorecent lighting either, even the compact fluorescent bulbs which supposedly flicker too fast to cause any problems. This basically keeps me from going out most places.

        Neurologist is unsure at the moment, but his initial guesses, based on symptoms, are photosensitive temporal lobe epilepsy or basilar type migraine. MRI and EEG both showed nothing, but that's true for a relatively large percentage of people who have problems. Neurology has come a l
        • by cheros ( 223479 )

          Maybe a weird question, but have you tried keeping a DC powered bulb or LED in your line of sight? This idea was triggered by something I once had to do years ago in analogue audio to keep a signal clean (I honestly have no idea what it was - this is from very long ago).

          The idea is to enable you to still pick up that other information, but dominate the "signal" (or image, in your case) by data that is acceptable. With HiBri LEDs you can pretty much blind yourself, so maybe there's a point between black an

        • Do higher-end CFLs do the same thing to you? They supposedly increase the AC frequency to 10kHz or so to eliminate flicker. I am prone to migraines myself and generally hate flourescent lighting but have used CFLs for about five years without any problem.

    • by asaz989 ( 901134 )
      Yes, exactly; when people say that these devices, and e-ink displays, are "easy on the eyes", flicker-free is what they're talking about. That's because these devices work by moving (by electrical means) little bits of matter in changed pixels for every refresh cycle - black or white beads for e-ink, little bits of colored oil for these displays. So when the picture stays the same, there's no off-and-on cycling, but instead the colored material just stays put. These devices sound perfect for your problem -

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.