The Orientation: Electronic Paper

Welcome, welcome, welcome to another installment of CrunchGear’s “The Orientation” where we do our best to make technology easy to swallow and understand just for you, dear friends. This week we’re going to look at electronic paper. All sorts of crazy things are coming into the mainstream these days like the Kindle or those fancy e-ink watches and it appears we’ll be seeing it in other products in the near future. So, I think it’s about time we dissected the whole thing and figured out what it is and how it works.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with its characteristics, but in case you are not then I will enlighten thee. Electronic paper is much like normal paper in that it reflects light in the same manner. Actually, that’s the only similarity the two have, but it’s a heck of a lot more useful. It’s sort of like an etch-a-sketch in that electronic paper can be reused millions of times (this is just a guess) thus eliminating the need to kill more trees and pay horrendous amounts for ink.

There are two variations of electronic paper today, one offered by Xerox in the form of Gyricon and another from Lucent/E-ink, but Nick Sheridon first created it in the70s at Xerox.

Gyricon consists of a sheet of silicone with dipole polyethylene spheres. Said spheres are composed of positively charged white plastic on one side and negatively charged black plastic on the other side. Each bead is suspended in oil and depending on the electrical current white or black is shown. Simple, right? E-Ink’s electronic ink essentially works the same way.


I won’t say that the technology is simple, but it’s easy to understand with the above description. But why is it important? Well, for starters, it consumes very little power and only needs a bit of juice to flip the spheres and can be used in larger applications that are flexible. Its implementation into watches, e-books and even cell phones is just the start. Color electronic paper is already in the works and LG.Philips has a 14.3-inch model with a resolution of 1280×800.

Where else would you like to see e-paper implemented?