Today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Plastic Logic announced the details of the first consumer product based on organic transistors, a technology that’s been limited to the lab for the past 20 years. The company’s thin, lightweight e-reader, called the Que, uses organic transistors to power a black and white, touch-sensitive display made by E Ink, an electronic paper company. Such transistors can be built on lightweight plastic backings.
For the Que, the organic transistors mean a large and lightweight touch-sensitive display measuring 27 centimeters. Que users can annotate documents, by either scribbling directly on them with a finger, or using a touch-screen-based keyboard to type in notes. The two models announced today were a version with 4 gigabytes of onboard memory, retailing for $649 and the 3G-enabled version, with 8 gigabytes of memory for $799. The 8 gigabyte version should be able to store about 75,000 documents. Both weigh roughly 0.5 kilograms.
The home page on the Que features a calendar display that synches with Microsoft Exchange, and Que is working on creating wireless email and calendar. The company is partnering with Barnes and Noble to create a dedicated store, with business-oriented books and periodicals (including Technology Review) available.
To enhance the presentation of newspapers and magazines, Plastic Logic has partnered with Adobe to create the so-called truVue standard, which creates templates designed to give periodicals more of the look and feel of pages from a print issue. Subscriptions are downloaded using either WiFi or over AT&Ts 3G network.
Organic transistors can be made at much lower temperatures than those made with conventional silicon, which means it’s possible to print them on top of lightweight, flexible plastic instead of glass. The Que’s display is based on an array of one million organic transistors built on a plastic backing. This plastic array, which replaces the rigid, heavy, silicon-on-glass array in most displays, including those in other e-readers on the market, drives the pixels of the E Ink display. Though the display itself is flexible, it’s encased in rigid plastic. The advantage of the flexible plastic display is that it’s nearly unbreakable.
Plastic Logic was spun out of Cambridge University in 2000, the same year the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to the three researchers who made the first electrically conductive polymers in the late 1970s (none of these researchers are associated with Plastic Logic). The first organic transistors, which performed poorly compared with silicon, were made in Japan and England in the late 1980s.