Electronic Digital Paper

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Xerox Corporation has announced that it has selected 3M as the manufacturer to bring to market its Electronic Paper, a digital document display with the portability of a plain sheet of paper.
Developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), electronic paper represents a new kind of display, falling somewhere between the centuries old technology of paper and a conventional computer screen. Like paper, it is user friendly, thin, lightweight and flexible. But like a computer display, it is also dynamic and rewritable. This combination of properties makes it suitable for a wide range of potential applications, including:
Electronic paper newspapers offering breaking news, incoming sports scores, and up to the minute stock quotes, even as the paper is being read.
Electronic paper magazines that continually update with breaking information and make use of animated images or moving pictures to bring stories to life.
Electronic paper textbooks, which could amalgamate a number of textbooks into one book, allowing students to thumb through the pages, scan the information and mark up pages as they would a regular book.
Electronic paper displays in the form of wall size electronic whiteboards, billboards and portable, fold up displays.
The technology, supported by a portfolio of Xerox patents, has been prototyped at PARC on a limited scale. Xerox' collaboration with 3M establishes a means by which the electronic paper material, essentially the paper pulp of the future can be manufactured in the volumes necessary to meet market demands and make the development of a wide range of supporting applications commercially viable.
In moving from the research laboratory to licensed manufacturing, electronic paper is taking its first step to the commercial market. It will not be long before a single renewable sheet of electronic paper offers a never ending parade of news and information.
How it works

Electronic paper utilises a new display technology called a gyricon, invented by Xerox. A gyricon sheet is a thin layer of transparent plastic in which millions of small beads, somewhat like toner particles, are randomly dispersed. The beads, each contained in an oil-filled cavity, are free to rotate within those cavities. The beads are bichromal, with hemispheres of contrasting colour (e.g. black and white), and charged so they exhibit an electrical dipole.
Under the influence of a voltage applied to the surface of the sheet, the beads rotate to present one coloured side or the other to the viewer. A pattern of voltages can be applied to the surface in a bit wise fashion to create images such as text and pictures. The image will persist until new voltage patterns are applied to create new images.
There are many ways an image can be created in electronic paper. For example, sheets can be fed into printer like devices that will erase old images and create new images. Used in these devices, the electronic paper behaves like an infinitely reusable paper substitute.
Although projected to cost somewhat more than a normal piece of paper, a sheet of electronic paper could be reused thousands of times. Printer like devices can be made so compact and inexpensive that you can imagine carrying one in a purse or briefcase at all times. One such envisioned device, called a wand, can be pulled across a sheet of electronic paper by hand to create an image. With a built in input scanner, this wand becomes a hand-operated multi function device, a printer, copier, fax, and scanner all in one.
For applications requiring more rapid and direct electronic update, the gyricon material might be packaged with a simple electrode structure on the surface and used more like a traditional display. An electronic paper display could be very thin and flexible. A collection of these electronic paper displays could be bound into an electronic book. With the appropriate electronics stored in the spine of the book, pages could be updated at will to display different content.
For portable applications, an active matrix array may be used to rapidly update a partial or full page display, much like is used in today's portable devices. The lack of a backlight and eliminated requirement to refresh the display (since it is bistable), along with improved brightness compared to today's reflective displays, will lead to utilisation in lightweight and lower power applications.
Xerox has had significant activity in developing this technology for some time. Although not yet perfected, the technology is currently at the state where it is suitable for development for the first set of applications. They are currently engaging partners in both manufacturing and application areas and see a bright future for this technologya

Holographic Storage Technologies

The theory of holography was developed by Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian physicist, in the year 1947. His theory was originally intended to increase the resolving power of electron microscopes. Gabor proved his theory not with an electron beam, but with a light beam. The result was the first hologram ever made. The early holograms were legible but plagued with many imperfections because Gabor did not have the correct light to make crisp clear holograms as we can today . Gabor needed laser Light. In the 1960s two engineers from the University of Michigan: Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks, developed a new device which produced a three dimensional image of an object. Building on the discoveries of Gabor, they produced the diffuse light hologram. Today, we can see holograms, or 3D images, on credit cards, magazine covers and in art galleries. Yet this unique method of capturing information with lasers has many more applications in the industrial world and is on the verge of revolutionising data storage technology as we know it.
A project at Lucent Technologies Bell Laboratories could result in the first commercially viable holographic storage system. Leveraging advances across a number of technologies from micromirror arrays to new non linear polymer recording media, the team hopes to spin the project off into a startup. This technology not only offers very high storage densities, it could access that data at very high rates, due to the fact that holographic methods read an entire page of data in one operation. While conventional optical storage techniques read and write data by altering an optical medium on a per bit basis, holographic storage records an entire interference pattern in a single operation. This technique makes unique demands on both the light source and the recording medium. While a conventional optical disk system can get by with a relatively low power laser diode and a single detector, holographic techniques require high quality laser sources and detector arrays. However, these types of components have been getting cheaper. For example, CMOS pixel sensors offer the potential for the low cost detection of data arrays, while digital micromirrors can be used for data input from electronic systems. The biggest challenge has been devising a suitable optical medium for storing the interference patterns. The team turned to non linear polymers in its search for that key component. What is needed is a medium that can support the overlap of megabyte data pages, each with a high enough diffraction efficiency to enable high transfer rates. These two demands sound reasonably simple, but it really leads to a very long list of pretty stringent criteria for what a material has to do. The researchers have found what they believe is a suitable candidate, an acrylic polymer compound that polymerises in response to light. In addition to having the required optical performance properties, the new material, being a polymer, is easy to form into thick films. Film thickness directly relates to storage capacity and inorganic nonlinear materials, which are crystalline, are difficult to build in thick films. The researchers have built a prototype system using off the shelf components such as camera lenses and digital micromirrors from Texas Instruments.
Many novel technologies are being pursued in parallel towards accomplishing higher capacities per disk and higher data transfer rates. Several unconventional long term optical data storage techniques promise data densities greater than 100 Gb/in2 and perhaps even exceeding Tb/in2. These include near field and solid immersion lens approaches, volumetric (multi layer and holographic) storage, and probe storage techniques.
A solid immersion lens approach using MO media pursued by Terastor in the United States promises at least 100 Gb/in2 areal density. This technique relies on flying a small optical lens about 50 nm above the storage medium to achieve spot sizes smaller than the diffraction limit of light. Since the head is now lighter, this type of technology may lead to access times comparable with hard drives. Several Japanese companies are intrigued by the approach and are involved in Terastor's activities. Similar objectives are pursued by Quinta, a Seagate Company, where increasing amounts of optical technologies including optical fibers and fiber switches are used to reduce the size and weight of the head, which is non flying, but still placed quite near to the disk medium.
Multi layer storage is pursued both in Japan and the United States. In Japan the effort concentrates on increasing the number of storage layers in a PC based DVD disk. Some researchers also envision adapting multi layer recording to MO media by simultaneously reading and computing the data on several layers. Both approaches, however, have limited scalability in the number of layers. In the United States, Call/Recall, Inc. is using a fluorescent disk medium to record and read hundreds of layers. Also in the United States, significant effort is being put into developing holographic storage, aiming for areal densities exceeding 100 Gb/in2. Companies both in the United States and Japan are exploring the use of parallel heads to speed up data transfer rates. Finally, both in Japan and in the United States, optically assisted probe techniques are being explored to achieve areal densities beyond a Tb/in2. In summary, a fast growing removable data storage market governed by optical storage has resulted from substantial progress that has been made in optical disk storage techniques. These advances have come through a combination of laser wavelength reduction, increases in the objective lens numerical aperture, better crosstalk management, and coding improvements under the constant pull of new applications. Undoubtedly, emerging applications will pull optical storage techniques to reach new performance levels. There is room for advances in storage capacity, as transitions to blue lasers, near field optical recording, and multi layer systems will occur.
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