'Esquire' To Print Electronic Cover Esquire magazine's October cover will feature an animated electronic display using a technology called E-ink. How will it work? Russell Wilcox, the CEO of E-Ink Corp., explains.

'Esquire' To Print Electronic Cover

'Esquire' To Print Electronic Cover

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Esquire magazine's October cover will feature an animated electronic display using a technology called E-ink. How will it work? Russell Wilcox, the CEO of E-Ink Corp., explains.


Imagine strolling past a newsstand or glancing down at your coffee table, and that face on the cover of the magazine winks at you. The words start moving around. A little logo in the corner starts twirling. No, this isn't the product of a geek's hangover. It's Science Out of the Box.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: On the October cover of Esquire magazine, most of us will get our first look at something called electronic ink or E Ink, for short. Each cover will actually be a paper-thin screen that's powered by a tiny battery.

Russell Wilcox is president and CEO of the company that pioneered E Ink, and Russell Wilcox, welcome to the program.

Mr. RUSSELL WILCOX (President and Chief Operating Officer, E Ink, Corp.): Hi, nice to be with you.

SEABROOK: Yeah, I'm looking at a photo of the cover here. How does it work?

Mr. WILCOX: So Electronic Ink is made of tiny bits of ink and paper.

SEABROOK: So it actually has ink?

Mr. WILCOX: It actually has the same materials as ink and paper, and your audience will appreciate the science of this. You know, what makes paper white is bleach and titanium dioxide. So we're grinding titanium dioxide in, and that - the same pigment that makes golf balls white and…

SEABROOK: …and paint.

Mr. WILCOX: …wall paint white, right.

SEABROOK: Things are…

Mr. WILCOX: It's quite white. And there's even titanium dioxide in your nondairy creamer. So it's…


Mr. WILCOX: …safe but quite white.


Mr. WILCOX: And then we have carbon black, and that's what people put into toner. So what we do is we have these little bits of black and white pigments, and we put them in a liquid.

So you can imagine like a snow globe. If you can make all the snow in a snow globe rise to the top, and you look down onto that, you'd see the color white, and now imagine we could put some black snow in there and make that come to the top, you'd see the color black, and we give these particles a negative or positive charge so we can control them electronically, and our snow globe is actually called a microcapsule, and it's quite small, and we have millions of them.

So it's a liquid full of tiny microcapsules that are hollow bubbles, and inside each one is a mixture of white and black pigments that we can control electronically, and we code that mixture down onto a nice thin film, and that becomes the front of your display, and because we have black and white particles moving together, we can mix them to create grey scales, and it actually responds very quickly.

SEABROOK: So will it work with color? Can you do color?

Mr. WILCOX: It will work in color in the future. Today, what we're providing is grey scales, monochrome, and in the future, we'll put a color filter on top. Beyond that, we can maybe add colored pigments for really expressive color.

SEABROOK: How often do people ask you about Harry Potter?

Mr. WILCOX: They do. They do often think of Harry Potter.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. WILCOX: The Marauder Map.

SEABROOK: Yeah, the Marauder Map and how all the pictures in Harry Potter wave and smile, it's like…

Mr. WILCOX: That's right. In our labs, we're actually - are able to do that now, and just for fun, we actually show a little Harry Potter clip on the very latest E Ink displays, which will still take a couple of years to come out to the market, so unfortunately they're not available now, but we're doing that magic today.

SEABROOK: Russell Wilcox is the president and CEO of E Ink Corporation. He joined us from the studios of WGBH in Boston. Thanks very much.

Mr. WILCOX: Thank you.

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