What is Electronic Paper?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Electronic paper is an enhanced form of display technology provides a look that is very much like that of conventional paper. Sometimes referred to as e-paper, the electronic paper display will exhibit some of the qualities of a good grade of white paper, including the reflection of light off the surface. In addition, the combination of electronic paper and electronic ink will allow text and images to be written onto the surface, and hold the script and images for an indefinite period of time.

The origins of electronic paper can be traced back to the 1970’s, with the creation of a product known as gyricon. Polyethylene spheres were sandwiched between two thin layer of plastic. The top sheet was white and charged with positive particles, while the backing sheet was black and charged with negative particles. As a result, it was possible to apply pressure to enter text and create images on the substance. However, the application only worked well with black text and black and white images. Attempts to create a credible color image would not be successful until the advances in computer technology in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.


Nevertheless, the concept of electronic ink and e-paper caught on quickly. Over the years, enhancements to the technology make it possible to utilize electronic paper for a number of applications. One common use of e-paper is the creation of digital copies of books and magazines that can be displayed or viewed on the Internet.

Some people confuse the idea of electronic paper with that of the commonly utilized digital paper display. While somewhat similar, the configuration of the two electronic devices are different. Digital paper is more often used as a means of allowing a user to write on the paper surface using a special stylus or digital pen. By contrast, electronic paper is meant more for text similar to that used in books and other types of typeset documents. The end product created using electronic paper is normally anticipated to last for an extended period of time, while the writings captured on digital paper are usually transferred and stored, freeing up the paper to be used repeatedly.


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