Sharp aims to take LCD into e-readers

Sharp Microelectronics will attempt to compete with electronic-paper displays in e-readers with a new form of liquid crystal display (LCD), a screen type that had been ruled out previously because of power consumption.

The company plans to launch in the second half of this year a 6in LCD that draws much less power than a conventional LCD and which, according to Hartmut Heske, vice president of strategic planning and development for Sharp Microelectronics Europe, can compete with an e-Ink display in terms of energy consumption in a typical e-reader design.

The display will be based on the continuous-grain silicon technology developed by Sharp that makes it possible to put logic transistors directly onto the LCD substrate. This makes it possible to put memory cells right next to the LCD pixels, greatly reducing the amount of power needed to control the image. A small Memory LCD consumes around 30µW with an image that updates every second.

“We use this display already in mobile phones for secondary displays,” said Heske. “The power consumption is very similar to e-Ink. The contrast ratio is also similar. The difference with e-Ink is that it has a white background. The LCD is a little bit more blueish. Some say they want the white appearance but we have people interested in using this for e-readers.

“The advantage with LCD is that you can put other applications into the e-reader. You could animate the page turning and even show small videos. E-Ink is not fast enough to do that.”

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