e-Paper- Real Life or Virtual Reality
Twenty years ago, a scientist at Xerox had an idea for electronic paper. Twenty years later, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center introduced a paper substitute fueled by electronic ink, called Gyricon. Since 1991, the two companies have been toiling with the concept of e-paper, an invention that, if embraced, may be the single most significant influence on publishing in the 21st century.
The reusable paper, according to company reports, has many of the same properties of traditional paper. It stores an image for view and is relatively flexible. The thick, rubbery material (with a consistency of about four sheets of traditional paper) is composed of microscopic beads that are laminated between clear sheets of plastic or glass. The material is filled with oil that creates movability within each cavity housing the minute beads, which act like toner particles. The multi-colored beads, which create the text, are activated via an electronic charge coming from either a computer or wireless device, which causes the beads to rotate, creating patterns and words on the synthetic plain. Once activated, the beads hold their place until reactivated with new content. And although projections predict electronic paper will cost substantially more than traditional paper, e-paper's tests suggest reusability upwards of 1,000 times, which is appealing for makers of e-books and portable and full-size display screens. Gyricon, says Xerox, may also be bound together in notebook or hard-copy book form.
The electronic paper substrate is designed to feed into other electronic outlets, such as sheetfed printers, copiers and fax machines. According to Xerox reports, upon feeding, e-paper can be erased and then redrawn with new content via electronic messages streaming from professional digital output devices. And unlike e-book technology, Gyricon does not require backlighting, which for many vendors, signals consumer appeal for tired eyes. Xerox plans to further develop Gyricon for the sign and advertising markets for third quarter 2001.