Tuesday, 24 Feb, 2009 Science

Latest Invention: Flexible Electronic Books for a Better E-reading Experience


Previously there were a lot rumors about the creation of a flexible electronic book, but scientists only managed to come up with flexible screens.

Specialists at Plastic Logic, a display technology company with headquarters in Cambridge, UK, stated that they look forward to present their latest invention in science - world's first flexible electronic book. They plan to launch the device in January.

Currently the two most popular electronic books on the market are the Sony Reader and the popular Amazon Kindle. These two devices are paperback book-sized gadgets that feature the first-gen black and white electronic "ink" displays that are made of plastic sheet featuring pixel-sized voids. Each void is filled with black and white ink particles.

In order to display print, the ink is pulled to the top of these voids by electric fields. Such devices have a problem and that is they're fragile because the transistors that generate the electric fields are set on a layer of glass.

According to experts from Plastic Logic, in their latest invention they managed to come up with a technique that allows printing polymer transistors onto a surface of flexible plastic. This technique makes it possible for the screens to bend and bounce.

"Screen breakage is the number one complaint with today's e-reader technology. Our display can take a lot of rough and tumble," explains Joe Eschbach of Plastic Logic. It is worth mentioning that screen breakage is the main disadvantage in the e-reader technology.

In order to make the transistors, scientists print a droplet of conducting polymer along with a surfactant onto the plastic sub-layer. Thanks to the surfactant, the droplet is water-resistant. When the second droplet of polymer (which does not include surfactant) is dropped onto the first, it slips off and ends up near it, landing up exactly 60 nanometres away due to the size of the droplets. Such a close nearness is crucial for developing transistors that boast fast display switching speeds.

Lately the company announced that it plans to make its latest invention commercially available. It will sell screens with the size of an A4 paper.

"It'll be a much better e-reading experience at this magazine size - keeping layouts and graphics intact without converting them to small and unattractive formats," says Eschbach.

Their gadget will feature wireless internet connection as well as a touch screen, which will allow people to use of a virtual keyboard for writing text.

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