Although we work in an increasingly digital world, paper still piles up on our desks and shelves.
We write on or print out that paper, often for one-time use. Some of it may eventually get shredded and sent to the recycler, but much of it ends up in landfills.
But what if we could reuse that paper over and over, much the same way we rewrite information on computer disk drives, USB drives, and other digital media?
Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have taken a step toward that direction by developing a technology for “rewritable paper.”
The researchers found that chemicals called redox dyes, when incorporated into a thin glass or plastic film, can produce printed text when exposed to ultraviolet light. Heating the film to a certain temperature will erase the text, readying the film for another print cycle. The rewritable medium that UCR researchers are working on within the lab can handle about 20 write-and-erase cycles.
The researchers are now investigating ways to apply the technology to paper.
“This rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable,” said UCR chemistry professor Yadong Yin. “It represents an attractive alternative to regular paper in meeting the increasing global needs for sustainability and environmental conservation.”
Perhaps one day we may have “rewriteable printers” in our offices. Imagine being able to skip having to buy reams of copy paper and instead of loading up the machine with used paper that would have normally gone to the shredder or the wastebasket.
Yin’s team is working on increasing the write-and-erase cycle number to around 100, which would help make the new technology much more cost-effective.
Check out the UCR researchers’ video about the new technology: