First, a disclaimer: this is not just a text about how wonderful your e-reader is. Electronic paper, the technology behind your Kindle’s incredible glare-free screen, is amazing at bringing to life the adventures of your literary hero, but it is also capable of much more, much like regular paper.
Just like traditional paper can be transformed into everything from origamis to paper-mâché, e-paper is proving to be a platform on which incredible and versatile projects can be realized. E-paper’s amazing characteristics such as excellent visibility, paper-like readability and extremely low energy consumption make it perfect for all sorts of incredible products, from phones and accessories to digital signs.
But just exactly what is electronic paper and how does the darn thing work?
What exactly is electronic paper?
Electronic paper goes by many names: e-paper, sometimes spelled as ePaper, electronic ink and (generically, after the company that manufactures it) also e ink. All of these names describe the exact same thing: a technology that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.
Put simply, imagine you took a pen and jotted down something in a notebook. The clear, well defined lines of your text will have the same crispness and high-readability as content shown on an electronic paper display.
But why is that, and how does an electronic paper display actually display an image? And what makes it so different from all the other high-definition screens out there?
Millions of tiny ink capsules
To answer these questions we should start at the very core of e ink technology: small capsules filled with a clear fluid containing teeny-tiny particles, each about as wide as a human hair.
Each electronic paper display is made up of millions of such capsules in a thin film, with the particles inside the capsules of different colors and different electric charges. Electrodes are placed above and below the capsule film. When a positive or negative electric field is applied to an individual electrode, the color particles with the corresponding charge will move either to the top or bottom of a capsule, making the surface of the e-paper display appear a certain color.
Electronic paper goes by many names, all of them describing the exact same thing: a technology that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.