Lucent, E Ink to develop e-paper

Lucent Technologies and E Ink are collaborating on a futuristic product that they describe as electronic paper.

The companies say it could become a new format for the printing and distribution of newspapers and books.

The electronic paper is actually made from flexible plastic sheets similar to transparency pages used with overhead projectors and is made through a process similar to ink-on-paper printing, officials of Lucent's Bell Labs division and E Ink said. The plastic sheets would be covered by plastic transistors developed at Bell Labs that have the same properties as conventional silicon chips - wires, insulators and semiconductors - but are flexible and can be printed onto plastic.

E Ink's electronic ink, the other key component of electronic paper, is made of millions of tiny microcapsules filled with dark dye and light pigment that changes hue to form images when charged by the electric field created by the plastic transistors.

The electronic paper could be instantaneously updated with the latest edition of a newspaper, periodical or book through a computer link. The same technology also may lead to ultra-thin, lightweight displays for next-generation consumer electronics, such as cellular phones and personal digital assistants, the companies said.

One of the technical advantages of electronic paper is that E Ink's electronic ink is "bistable," meaning that once the ink receives a charge it stays put, which reduces the amount of power needed to hold the image in place, Bell Labs researcher Pierre Wiltzius said. Electronic paper's flexibility and durability are among its other advantages over glass-encased liquid crystal displays, he added.

Electronic paper can be rolled, but not folded, and if it's dropped, it won't break, said Paul Drzaic, director of E Ink's display technology division.

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