Water-Based Printing Could Eliminate Paper Waste

A water-based printing method could help cut down on paper consumption by creating prints that fade.

In office parks across the world reams of paper are used to print messages that are discarded as quickly as they’re expelled from a laser jet tray. In fact, according to some estimates nearly 40% of office prints are discarded after a single read.

In an effort to help reduce this wanton waste, Sean Xiao-An Zhang, a chemistry professor at China’s Jinlin University, created a re-writable paper that prints both image and text when exposed to water.

Coated with invisible oxazolidines polymers, the re-writable paper remains mark-free until water breaks the bonds of its varnished chemical surface. Once broken, the oxazolidines change the way visible light is absorbed by the paper, rendering an image on its surface.

To return to its original state the paper just requires time. At room temperature the coated surface will return to a blank slate somewhere between 22 and 24 hours. If a faster return is required the paper can be exposed to temperatures around 70 °C and any impression can be removed in 30 seconds.

According to Dr. Zhang, his team has proven that their new re-writeable paper can be erased over and over, slashing the cost one would normally accrue using a traditional printer. “Based on 50 times of rewriting, the cost is only about one percent of the inkjet prints.”

Currently, Zhang’s team has only been able use their paper to print blue, magenta, purple and gold impressions. In the near future, researchers are hoping to improve the color range, print resolution and re-writing time.

With the development of fully functional re-writable paper, businesses across the globe might have the opportunity to slash costs and reap tremendous savings. What’s more, the publishing and newspaper industries might be granted a second life if they can lease re-writable paper technology and create their own proprietary blends.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia