Electrowetting color video displays coming to e-readers

Dutch researchers recently showed off a new e-reader device that supports color and can natively play videos without software updates.

The new e-reader from Liquavista is using a custom display screen that is reportedly four times more energy efficient than the more commonly used LCD technology.  Specifically, Liquavista uses electrowetting — the modification of electrical charges in each pixel to move colored oil. This is now being widely developed by several companies.

Electrowetting color video displays coming to e-readers

“You certainly could see this technology in your smartphone, in your mobile phone, in your web tablet, in your PC, in your notebook,” Guy Demuynck, Liquavista CEO said in a statement.  “But eventually you could see it in your home as your television screen in your living room.”

If electrowetting becomes more reliable and cheaper in the future, it could also one day be used for billboards and other public displays. In the consumer market, electrowetting could be used to increase notebook and smartphone battery life, if used in place of LCD screens.

The e-readers available today are most likely using e-ink technology that uses electrical charges to alter black and white beads.  It is a cheaper method but does have a performance disadvantage when compared to electrowetting.

The electrowetting technology has a bright future in the consumer market, according to supporters, although some questions remain about the immediate value of electrowetting.  Although this energy efficient screen opens up color and video support, I’m not convinced consumers are ready to pay a higher price tag for the developing technology.

If it’s true that existing LCD facilities can be quickly changed to electrowetting manufacturing, it’s a major advantage for the technology. E-ink and OLED facilities require completely new fabrication equipment, which takes time and capital expenditure.