(click to enlarge image)Up till now, paper has been the uncontested material for use in writing and reading. Let’s take a look at its pros and cons. Paper is inexpensive, light, flexible, easy to write or record on, and we can see what's on the paper itself as long as there is sufficient light: this is the greatest advantage of paper. On the other hand, it’s not easy to change writing on paper and edit its content once the sheet has been marked. Readers and writers have been forced to accept the nature of paper as a “single-use” material. E-paper has been developed to capitalize the advantages of paper and mitigate its drawbacks. It inherently provides all the benefits of paper and also has electronic advantages such as a wide viewing angle, visibility under normal sunlight and low power consumption. E-paper has embedded ink that works electronically, and its micro structure mimics the characteristics of normal paper. Its paper-like appearance is made possible through using an encapsulated EPD (electronic paper display), microcapsules that contain a clear fluid with electrically charged fine particles of 2 kinds of pigments and laid between two electrodes. When electricity is applied, the fine particles are distributed and arranged, replicating the phenomenon of a wet ink being written on paper.
But: Is paper ready to be replaced by e-paper?
For e-paper to have all the convenience of regular paper, it must be just as easy to carry around, can be folded and crumpled up, pulled out of a bag or pocket, and its content should be instantly available once it’s unfolded. Furthermore, e-paper should be able to recreate true colors. If e-paper can do all of that, then it will be a real alternative to traditional paper.
We still don’t have foldable, bendable e-paper that can display true colors like normal paper.
Prototypes that provide these benefits have actually been created, but none have been released for commercial use just yet. As technology progresses, a single sheet of e-paper will finally substitute one sheet of traditional paper: it will be foldable and bendable, and can be used to fill newspapers and books.
E-paper’s development brings it closer to being more and more like regular paper.