August 9, 2011

Taiwan Company Invents Rewritable Electronic Paper

Scientists from Taiwan have developed a new type of paper -- known as "i2R e-Paper" -- which acts as an environmentally friendly form of rewritable electronic paper and works without electricity.

Unlike e-book technology, "i2R e-Paper" does not need to be backlit and therefore doesn't consume electricity, according to researchers at the country's Industrial Technology Research Institute.

The paper uses a thermal printer, like that found in fax machines. When the message is no longer needed, the paper can be erased with the flip of a switch and can be reused up to 260 times.

"It only requires heat to store or transmit images onto the flexible display," said Frank Hsiu, a senior official at the Institute's Display Technology Centre based in the northern Hsinchu city.

The technology can be used in products such as digital books and electronic bulletin boards, the institute said.

The researchers say it is the ideal replacement for paper signs and posters that are now produced by the millions around the world.

"You can imagine how much paper and how many trees can be saved if this product is widely used in the world," Hsiu told AFP.

"I think the greatest breakthrough was that traditional display devices usually require electricity to write, but our technology made it closer to how we would use normal paper," said John Chen, Vice President of the Institute and general director of the Display Technology Center.

"First, it does not require patterned electrodes -- it is very light, soft and rewritable. From this perspective, this is a true e-paper," said Chen.

The "i2R e-Paper" is coated with a plastic film covered with cholestric liquid crystal, a type of liquid crystal structured similarly to cholesterol molecules. While the paper does not need electricity to be used and viewed, when connecting the paper to electricity, the paper can be easily erased.

An A4-sized piece of paper, which is already in production, will cost roughly $2 US. Developers hope it will be commercially available within two years.

Because one piece of paper can be re-used up to 260 times, it will be a big positive in terms of environmental production, said Chen.


Image Caption: The rewritable e-paper only requires heat to store or transmit images on the flexible cholesteric liquid crystal panel. This e-paper can achieve 300dpi high resolution with memory function. It does not consume electricity. To change any content, you can simply put the paper into a thermal writing device to complete at once image removing and writing step. It is both eco-friendly and rewritable for multiple times.


On the Net:

  • To read more on re-useable paper or to read some of the other advances being worked on at the Industrial Technology Research Institute, follow this link.