Thursday, May 27, 2010

Merck's Involvement Suggests Longevity for Epaper

In the display industry, the name Merck (officially called EMD Chemicals here in the United States) is synonymous with liquid crystal chemistry. LCD researchers and manufacturers around the world rely on Merck to supply just the right LC mixture to produce their desired display effect. According to Merck’s Mark Goulding, the company may be about to expand its reach into materials for electronic paper. In an invited symposium talk delivered as part of Wednesday afternoon’s electronic paper session, Goulding showed his promising results in synthesizing a variety of brightly-colored particles and compounding them into electrophoretic suspensions.

Particle electrophoresis is the core technology behind EPD companies like E Ink and Sipix, which to date make up the lion’s share of e-paper products on the market. Today, these companies formulate their own materials using closely-guarded recipes. In his talk, Goulding suggested that Merck is evaluating whether to offer their own electrophoretic mixtures in the market, which could open up an opportunity for other display companies to experiment with this hot new technology. This probably won’t happen tomorrow, since Merck’s formulas will need more fine-tuning before rolling out. As an example, Goulding was not ready to comment on image stability, saying only that it is an area of active research at the moment; image stability is what allows e-readers to keep their image for long periods of time without requiring a refresh, and is critical to ultra-low-power operation of EPD’s. Nonetheless, this initiative by a major display materials supplier suggests that the e-paper market segment is here to stay, and its best days are still ahead of us. -- Robert Zehner, E Ink

*For additional information on Goulding's presentation, see Paul Drzaic's symposium rundown.

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