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Bringing Color to E-Readers

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One of the hot topics at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas is color e-readers, with several companies showcasing new products. While E-Ink has been a leader in e-reader display technology, the company has yet to produce a color display capable of showing video, and the next generation of devices could threaten E-Ink's dominance.

E-Ink's monochrome screens are made up of microcapsules full of positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles. Applying a negative charge causes a pixel containing the particles to appear white, while a positive charge results in a black appearance.

Color versions use the same basic technology, but with colored filters added. Unfortunately, these filters tend to reduce the brightness of the display, leading to a washed out appearance.

Companies such as Pixel Qi, Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Liquavista, and Kent Displays all have new ideas about the best way to make a good color screen for an e-reader, and they are eager to get in the game.

This morning at the CES, Pixel Qi demonstrated its new display technology, targeted for use in netbooks, e-readers, and tablets. In high-power mode, the 10.1-inch display acts like a traditional LCD screen: a backlight provides light that is filtered by red, green, and blue sub-pixels to create desired colors. However, the display also has a low-power mode. In this mode the backlight is turned off, and reflective, mirror-like, elements--placed alongside the red, green, and, blue subpixels--take over the job of displaying the image, now in black and white. (How these elements are operated and distributed across the screen is being kept secret by Pixel Qi.)

From Technology Review
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