Information Today
Volume 17, Issue 8 • September 2000
E Ink Agreement with Lucent Will Help Develop Electronic Paper

Lucent Technologies and E Ink Corp. have announced an agreement that may accelerate the time when e-books and newspapers resembling flexible plastic sheets will be available for millions of users. Under the agreement, Lucent’s proprietary Bell Labs plastic transistor technology has been licensed to E Ink. In addition, Lucent’s New Ventures Group has made a multimillion-dollar investment in E Ink in return for a minority equity position.

The companies will collaborate on the development of “electronic paper”: flexible, plastic electronic displays made with a process similar to ink-on-paper printing. If successful, the plastic sheets could be instantly updated via computers, wireless, and Internet connections, and could be used in ultra-thin, lightweight displays for cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and e-books. The venture combines two powerful technologies: E Ink’s electronic ink, and plastic transistors, now being developed at Lucent’s Bell Labs.

Electronic ink contains millions of tiny “switchable” capsules that react to electrical signals so they show either a dark dye or a white pigment. Once switched, the display image is maintained with little or no additional power.

The Bell Labs plastic transistors have properties similar to those used in semiconductors formed on silicon chips, but are flexible and can be printed. Used together, a grid of plastic transistors could create electric fields that cause the electronic ink to change color and create images. The resulting flexible electronic paper could be updated or changed electronically from computers and wireless links, allowing consumers to carry electronic books, newspapers, and other documents that are refreshed with the latest information.

The technology also could be used in portable information appliances such as computers, wireless phones, and personal digital assistants. The two companies hope to create displays with better contrast and wider viewing angles than conventional liquid crystal units, while enabling hand-held devices to be lighter and thinner due to reduced battery needs.

 “The market for differentiable, Internet-deliverable content is huge, and E Ink is aimed squarely at enabling that high-growth market,” said Tom Uhlman, president of Lucent’s New Ventures Group. “This application will help us commercialize Lucent’s world-leading, organic, thin-film transistors.”

 “The collaboration with Lucent is an important step that moves us closer to achieving the look and feel of paper in an electronic display,” said Jim Iuliano, E Ink’s president and CEO.

Source: Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, NJ, 888/4LUCENT, 908/582-8500; and E Ink Corp., Cambridge, MA, 617/499-6000;

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