Low-power 'electrowetting' screen allows e-reader batteries to last days

A Dutch company called Liquavista has developed a new type of screen for e-readers that blurs the line between LCDs and e-ink displays, seemingly enjoying the positives of each while attracting none of the negatives. This isn't some far-flung tech, either; it could find its way into e-readers, phones and tablets in as little as a year.

Shown off in the prototype you see above, the new display takes advantage of a process called "electrowetting," which "involves small electrical charges moving coloured oil within each pixel," according to the BBC. The process allows the e-wet screens to display vibrant color and enjoy a fast refresh rate like an LCD, while being readable in sunlight and consuming very little power just like an e-ink screen. So little power, in fact, that devices using the screen could theoretically display video in full color and still have a battery last for days instead of hours.

"On the one side there's the LCDs which bring video and colour, as we know from our TV screens. On the other side, there's the electrophoretic displays [e-ink e-readers] which bring low power consumption and readability in all lighting conditions," Johan Feenstra, Liquavista's founder, told the BBC.

In sunlight, the screen only gets more crisp — a huge boon for folks who enjoy taking their e-readers to parks and such. When taken into a dark area, the prototype automatically back-lights the screen. The screen also boasts the ability to refresh the display 60 times a second, which is fast enough to play video and beats the second or two it takes e-ink readers to refresh.

Electrowetting displays could be the future for e-ink displays and keep e-readers in the running against fancier devices such as the iPad. The big barrier to entry right now? The price. While vastly efficient, an electrowetting display would really jack up the price, and Liquavista founder Johan Feenstra wonders if people would really pay a premium for such an advanced screen, or stick to cheaper LCD displays on phones and tablets.

You can see a demonstration video over at the BBC.

Via BBC News