Guangzhou OED got its start in developing a knockoff epaper screen tech which rivaled E-ink, but now this Chinese company says they have developed a new graphene backplane which (if the marketing materials are to be believed) promises to be lighter and stronger than E-ink’s existing glass-based screens.
Unfortunately, the tech is arriving far too late for it to show up in ereaders.
The new material has been heralded as “the world’s first graphene electronic paper,” by Chen Yu, general manager of Guangzhou OED Technologies, which developed it in partnership with a company in Chongqing.
Graphene is the world’s strongest and lightest known material; a single layer of graphene is only 0.335 nanometers thick, and it can conduct heat and electricity. The material can be used to create hard or flexible graphene displays, used in electronic products such as e-readers and wearable smart devices.
Compared with traditional e-papers, graphene e-paper is more pliable and has more intensity and its high-light transmittance means optical displays will be much brighter.
In addition, graphene is derived from carbon, meaning production costs will be much lower than for traditional e-papers, which use the rare, expensive metal indium. E-papers have been produced on a commercial scale since 2014. Compared with liquid crystal displays, e-papers are thinner, bendable and energy efficient, meaning products are more portable.
You can go ahead and ignore that last paragraph about costs; it is at best only half true and is highly misleading.
And you should also discount the optimistic bubbling on Gizmodo, Teleread, and other sites about this tech showing up in ereaders; that is highly unlikely.
The simple fact is the ereader market has reach the saturation point. Everyone who wants an ereader already has one, which is why the market has declined from its peak in 2012.
The first production run is always the most expensive, and there simply aren’t enough ereader sales each year to justify the capital investment required to develop a new screen tech into a commercial ereader product. (The market is down so much that no one is putting the plastic-backed Mobius E-ink screens in 6″ ereaders, either.)
Also, Amazon has driven the price of an ereader low enough that margins are too thin to support the development costs of a new screen, so if this tech does reach the market it will be a different market – signage, probably.
Remember, E-ink bought Sipix in 2012 and then used that company’s tech to develop 3-color shelf labels. That tech never made its way into ereader screens, and Guangzhou OED’s new graphene epaper will likely follow the same path.
image by UCL