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2011.0105

NTNU Grasps Drive Control Chip Technology Through Collaboration with Industry and Academia

<div><font size="3"> <div> <p>The magic newspapers with moving pictures as shown in the Harry Potter movies are going to become reality. Through collaboration with industry and academia, the Department of Applied Electronics Technology of NTNU has grasped the key technology of drive control chip and has developed bendable, foldable, easy-to-carry e-paper that can display motion pictures. The next important objectives will be adding colors to the e-paper and integrating it with soft solar cells.</p> </div> <div> <p>In recent years, the portability, mobility, and communicability of information have been improved due to digitalization of content. Displays have evolved from CRT to thin, flat display like LCD, contributing to the emergence of many movable electronic products. (e.g. laptops, smart phones, and tablet computers)</p> </div> <div> <p>However, even though currently being the most popular display, LCD stands no chance of replacing paper as it lacks the following important attributes of paper: (1) Readability: taking in ambient light and can be read from all viewing angles (2) No electric power consumption, no need to be plugged in (3) easy-to-carry, lightweight, and bendable.<span>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> </div> <div> <p>The traditional glass base rigid display could be broken and hence cannot meet the needs of users. Soft displays are lightweight, flat, bendable, and can withstand shock. Soft displays can be used anywhere and is expected to become flat display of the next generation.</p> </div> <div> <p>With the emergence of e-paper, we will no longer have to carry bulky volumes. Contents on paper cannot be erased, but users can constantly update information on e-paper. Such a feature makes the invention environmentally friendly and convenient. Furthermore, e-paper is foldable. You can bring it virtually anywhere to continue your reading.</p> </div> <div> <p>Paper-thin, portable, and foldable display.&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>The Daily Prophet newspaper with moving pictures in the Harry Potter novels will one day turn from fantasy to reality. Imagine that you select newspapers on an e-paper for the latest news and you can even listen to audio of the news stories.</p> </div> <div> <p>On your way to work, you can roll up the e-paper and put it in your pocket, and unfold it when you want to read. It is almost like a piece of traditional newspaper. E-paper reflects ambient light and is comfortable for users to read for long periods. E-paper is also energy efficient and environmentally friendly, following the trend of saving energy and reducing carbon footprints.</p> </div> <div> <p>E-paper does not aim to replace LCD. It is produced to revolutionize traditional applications of paper and books. E-paper can be used on e-books, price tags, e-tickets, menus, context wallpapers, posters, or any other information display application. E-paper saves the cost of printing large images, sizable manual labor cost of posting display paper, and the cost of maintaining paper display. E-paper can even be used in products that typically do not display information, such as cans, clothes, and foldable screens.</p> </div> <div>Enlisting Technological Support Through Years of Collaboration with Industry and Academia</div> <div> <p>Currently the most popular tablet computer, iPad, has the function of e-book and features multimedia effect. But iPad adopts TFT-LCD display, which uses backlight and is not suitable for long-time reading. In addition, reading for more than two or three hours constitutes planned professional reading, during which multimedia effect is not really needed.</p> </div> <div> <p>The System-On-Chip Laboratory, directed by the chairman of the Department of Applied Electronics Technology of NTNU, Wen-Chung Kao, has been engaged in industry-academia collaboration with the Electronics &amp; Optoelectronics Research Laboratories of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and SiPix of the AUO Group for three years. NTNU is in charge of developing e-paper control chip technology. The ITRI is responsible for developing flexible active-matrix and backplane mass production technology. SiPix focuses on developing and improving electrophoretic display materials. Many design modules of soft e-paper have already been completed.</p> </div> <div> <p>Chairman Kao worked in the Electronics &amp; Optoelectronics Research Laboratories of ITRI and the predecessor company of SiPix. He also participated in the founding of SiPix. The flexible e-paper developed by SiFix adopts Microcup technology. What differentiates it from conventional displays is its use of electrophoretic <span>material to make flexible plastic base instead of glass base. The plastic-based e-paper, therefoe, can be bent and is more like real paper.&nbsp;</span></p> </div> <div> <p>The electrophoretic e-paper has a unique structure that contains many small ball-shaped units of conducting polymer material. The name &ldquo;eletrophoretic&rdquo; comes from the fact that patterns seen by human eyes are formed by applying voltages to move postively-charged and negatively-charged particles in fluid. The e-paper has attributes like real paper. It is lightweight, thin, resilient, bendable, with low power consumption and can withstand pressure. It displays clear images under sunlight and has nearly 180-degree viewing angles. Moreover, no power is needed to maintain screen display while reading. Only changing content on the screen requires some power.</p> </div> <div> <p>A new generation of e-paper display control chip design has been developed by the System-On-Chip Laboratory at NTNU. In the past, <span>e-paper</span> <span>could only display 16-step grayscale images and text. With the real-time image processing chip, balck-and-white contrast and shaprness of images can be enhanced and 256-step grayscale display is made possible. That way, texts and images can both be shown on e-paper.&nbsp;</span></p> </div> <div>Replacing Printed Paper, Igniting Reading Revolution</div> <div> <p>Kindle, the e-book reader developed by Amazon.com, was very popular when it hit the market and had sparked an e-book war. Nevertheless, the display quality of its e-paper can be degraded by outdoor high-temperature and low-temperature conditions. Chairman Kao led the research team, making use of temperature correction and real-time image processing circuit to enable crisp display in all types of conditions.</p> <p>Unlike displays available on the market, the biggest drawback of soft e-paper is that it cannot display motion pictures. However, the NTNU research team has found a solution to dramatically improve response speed so as to enable smooth display of simple motion pictures. Drive technology will continue to be improved so that any real-time video can be played smoothly.</p> </div> <div> <p>Chairman Kao said that some color e-paper related technologies have been developed, but most of the technologies adopt the method of adding color filters. Such an approach can result in reduced brightness, slow response speed, and dull colors. Thee real solution is provided by using electrophoretic color material. At present, associate manufacturers are still developing key materials, but other functions like wireless connection, touch panel, and sound effect can all be added in using existing technologies.&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <p>Chairman Kao reckons that full-color e-paper and solar-powered e-paper will be the two major technologies to be developed in the future. It is estimated that color e-paper with display quality that nears printed color newspapers will be made possible in three to five years. But there will be five to ten years before integration of soft solar cells and e-paper can be achieved.</p> </div> NTNU has always been paying attention to digitalized education. E-bookbag plans conducted by junior high schools and elementary schools all use glass-base LCD display. Fearing that the display could be broken at home, the displays are used almost only in classrooms. In the future, students will be able to store all textbook contents in a piece of e-paper. E-paper is easy to carry around and is not breakable. Elementary school kids will not have to carry heavy bookbags anymore. It is hoped that with the government&rsquo;s joint effort, e-paper can be combined with e-book and cloud computing to promote the use of soft e-paper in the education market.&nbsp;</font></div>