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Bistable Displays: A Revolutionary Technology for Low-Power Electronic Displays

January 3, 2023

Introduction

Say goodbye to constant power consumption and hello to energy efficiency with bistable displays. This groundbreaking technology allows electronic displays to hold an image almost indefinitely without needing a continuous power source, making them a game-changing solution for low-power electronics applications. 

bistable display - e-reader


What are bistable displays, and how do they work?

In a nutshell, bistable displays are a type of electronic display that can hold an image almost indefinitely without the need for a continuous power source. Most bistable displays are reflective display technologies and typically belong to the e-paper display family.


There are several different bistable display technologies available on the market. Fundamentally, they are built only to draw power when updating the image, but no power for static usage. 


Types of bistable displays:

Electrophoretic displays

Electrophoretic displays, typically referred to as e-paper or e-ink displays, use microscopic particles suspended in a fluid to display an image. When an electric current is applied, the particles are moved to the front or back of the display, creating an image.


Bistable liquid crystal displays

Bistable liquid crystal displays (LCDs) use a special type of liquid crystal material that can hold an image without the need for a continuous power source. These displays are similar to traditional LCDs, but they are able to hold an image indefinitely without consuming any power. There are many different types of bistable display modes that have been developed over the past four decades, including:

  • bistable twisted nematic liquid crystal
  • surface-stabilized ferroelectric liquid crystals (FLCs)
  • grating-aligned zenithal bistable display (ZBD)
  • bistable cholesteric display (BCDs). 
  • Memory LCD, equipped with a one-bit memory circuit at each pixel to ensure information retention upon writing


Electrochromic displays

Electrochromic displays use an electrochromic material that is able to change its color or transparency when an electric current is applied to it. When the current is removed, the material remains in its new state for a certain time period, typically referred to as image memory or image retention. The image retention time can vary for different electrochromic stacks, but most electrochromic devices are not fully bistable.


Advantages of bistable displays

There are several advantages to using bistable displays over traditional displays:

  1. Energy efficiency: As bistable displays do not require a continuous power source to hold an image, they are much more energy efficient than traditional displays. This makes them ideal for use in applications where power consumption is a concern, such as in portable devices or in areas where access to electricity is limited. Read more about low-power displays.
  2. Simplified driving: Depending on bistable display technology, passive matrix addressing is possible, and no need for a thin film transistor array (TFT).
  3. Reflective Display Advantages: as mentioned, most bistable displays are reflective, which means benefits such as sunlight readability. Read more about reflective displays.
  4. Long lifespan: Bistable displays can have a longer lifespan than traditional displays, as they do not suffer from the wear and tear that comes from continuously displaying an image. This makes them ideal for use in applications where the display will be in use for long periods of time, such as in digital signage or in public transportation systems.


Applications of bistable displays

Bistable displays have a wide range of potential applications, including:

  1. Electronic shelf labels: Bistable displays are ideal for digital price signs and labels, as they are energy efficient and have a long lifespan.
  2. Digital signage: Bistable displays are also well-suited for use in digital signage, as they are able to hold an image indefinitely without consuming any power. This makes them ideal for use in outdoor advertising or in public transportation systems with relatively infrequent information changes. Read more about digital signage.
  3. E-readers: Bistable displays are often used in e-reader devices, as they are able to display text and images with high contrast and a wide viewing angle and can be read under sunlight. Their energy efficiency and long lifespan make them well-suited for use in this application.


Conclusion

Bistable displays are a revolutionary technology that has the potential to revolutionize the way we use electronic displays. With their energy efficiency, long lifespan, and durability, they have a wide range of potential applications and are well-suited for use in a variety of settings.

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