Philips Invents e-Skin for Color-Changing Devices and Walls - What's the Green Point?

phillips e-skin image

Photo via Phillips
e-Ink and e-Paper are fairly old news at this point. If you've had any interaction with an e-reader like the Kindle, then you've experienced e-paper. It's a technology for displays that has no need to backlighting and so is ultra energy efficient. Research has been going in to how to make e-paper colorful and able to display colors fast enough to enable video. But Philips has also been looking in to how to make the technology into something beyond displays. The company has created e-skin, e-paper that is really a skin for devices, or can even be scaled up to be wall paper. Color changing wall paper. Sounds neat - but what's the point of using this green technology for wall paper?Philips doesn't seem to have much of a green mindset when it comes to uses for the new e-skin technology. The company states:

"The first applications using the technology could be e-skins for small devices such as MP3 players or cell phones. However, the technology is highly scalable." Says Kars-Michiel Lenssen, Principal Scientist at Philips Research. "In the future it will be possible to use e-skins to bring new color and a new aura or 'vibe' to much larger equipment. Just as Philips' Ambient Experience uses light and color to make hospital diagnostic rooms far more welcoming, a large e-skin could make the concept fit for the MRI or CT scanner itself, potentially putting patients more at ease."

Sounds neat, but why cover entire walls with electronics? One idea the company mentions that sounds intriguing is to use the technology literally as 'e-wallpapers' where you can adjust the color of your wall or smart windows to regulate the daylight coming through your window. This could have an effect not only on the mood of a room, but more practically on the temperature of the room. It could help with passive solar heating and cooling. However, so too could dye-sensitized solar cells, and they'd be collecting energy in the process...not just using it up.

So do we really need color-changing skins on our MP3 players? Or walls that shift colors to adjust the mood? There must be other green uses for this technology that has been building a reputation for use in eco-friendly electronics, but for the most part, it seems to be an example of technology we have, but don't really need. And in a market where e-paper is expected to grow from $2.1 billion in 2015 to $7 billion by 2020, having reasonable uses for technology that is added to the market is a big part of being sustainable.

We'd like to see e-paper technology improve for e-readers, so that the devices that are becoming ubiquitous are as energy efficient as possible while visually appealing. But we don't really care to see electronic-coated wall papers everywhere.

More on e-Paper
Exciting e-Paper News: Full-Color, Interactive News Papers and Magazines on the Way
Soaring e-Paper Market Means It's Time to be Careful
e-Paper Getting More Paper-like with New Breakthrough

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