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  Latest News  
  April 1,2004  

FROM THE ACS MEETING

  MAKING ELECTRONIC PAPER
Researchers embed bacterial cellulose with electronic dye
 

  LOUISA WRAY DALTON  
   

 
  A new type of electronic paper was announced by scientists at the ACS meeting held March 28 to April 1, in Anaheim, Calif. The paper consists of bacterial cellulose with an electronic dye between transparent electrodes.

INKED A pen applies a voltage to a prototype of electronic paper, and the electrochromic dye darkens on the dynamic display.
COURTESY OF JAY SHAH
To make the paper, professor of molecular genetics and microbiology R. Malcolm Brown Jr., and graduate student Jay Shah at the University of Texas, Austin, start with a sheet of pure cellulose, which is one of the main structural components of wood and reflects and bends like conventional paper. This cellulose, however, is made not by plants but by Acetobacter xylinum bacteria. The bacterial cellulose is more structurally uniform and hardy than wood cellulose and can be grown in any shape.

Brown and Shah use a well-established process to harvest the bacterial cellulose, embed an electronic dye into a sheet of the material, and then place the sheet between the transparent electrodes. The device at first looks like fine white paper. But when a voltage is applied, the dye turns dark and remains dark, even when the power is turned off. Low power consumption is one of the main advantages of the technology.

When an opposite voltage is applied, the dye lightens and the device again appears paper-white. Shah sees the technology as a basis for electronic books, wallpaper that changes patterns, flexible electronic newspapers, and dynamic paper (similar to an Etch A Sketch screen).

Other electronic paper devices, such as products produced by E-Ink and Gyricon, are closer to commercialization, Shah says. But he notes that the new electronic paper is the first with a surface that has the same reflective quality as conventional paper. "The whole idea is to get an ink-on-paper look," he says. "In our case, it is dye-on-cellulose."
 
     
  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004
 


 
 
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