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 user 2007-10-16 at 11:03:00 am Views: 41
  • #19238

    How ‘disappearing ink’ can cut waste paper
    Scientists have unveiled a new kind of ‘ink’ that disappears from a page 24 hours after printing, allowing paper to be re-used
    Impossible-style self-destructing messages may soon cross from the
    realm of fiction into the wilds of the nine-to-five office, according
    to scientists who have developed printer ink that vanishes after 24
    hours.When a document is printed on the reusable paper, the text
    initially appears similar to normal printed text – only in a shade of
    dark purple, rather than black.Eight hours later, however, the image is
    a shadow of its former self and after a day – much like the McFly
    family photograph in Back to the Future – it is gone completely.The
    blank page can then be put back in the printer.It is hoped that the
    technique will reduce the trillion pages put in the recycling bin – or
    worse, thrown out – soon after being printed each year.

    ‘disappearing ink’ is not ink at all, but a temporary discolouration of
    light-sensitive molecules known as photochromes. The paper is coated
    with these molecules, which change colour when they are exposed to
    ultraviolet light. As soon as the printing is finished, the molecules
    begin reacting to the warmth in the surrounding air and gradually
    return to their natural state.Sheets of paper can be re-used before the
    ink has completely disappeared because the high temperatures inside a
    printer erase any remaining traces. As long as the paper is not
    creased, it can be used as many as 30 times.The unit which emits the
    ultraviolet light could feasibly be incorporated in an existing
    printer, the developers said, allowing computer users to select a
    special tray for ‘short lifespan’ documents.”Our studies were showing
    us that 45 per cent of all office printing is for ‘one-time use’, like
    reading an e-mail,” Paul Smith, a lab researcher at Xerox, who was
    demonstrating the technology in Grenoble, France, said. “Sometimes it
    can be a matter of minutes, then it goes straight in the recycling
    bin,” he said.The technology, which will not be commercially available
    for several years, will reduce the amount of energy required to print a
    single page by a factor of 200 – from just over 200kJ (which would
    power a 75W light bulb for an hour) to 1kJ (which would power the bulb
    for just 18 seconds), Mr Smith said. A recycled page uses about 110kJ
    of energy.

    The paper itself is no more expensive than a regular page, costing about 0.5p per sheet.
    the proliferation of devices which display text on electronic screens,
    the market for printers is growing at 6 per cent per year, according to
    analysts, driving the likes of Xerox to make printing more
    cost-effective – and more green – for offices.Sophie Vandebroek, the
    company’s chief technology officer, said: “Green technologies are
    increasingly important, and re-usable paper, while it requires
    conscious participation from the user, is one way of reducing the
    impact of printed documents on the environment.”Sharon McNee, an
    analyst in Gartner’s printing group, said that despite being in its
    infancy, the technology had obvious commercial potential, but warned
    that there would be significant costs associated with switching over
    printers and paper supplies.A spokeswoman for Waste Watch, the
    environmental charity, said: “There is enormous potential for
    innovative new technology to reduce the amount we generate at work, as
    so many office documents are only used for a short time. We welcome any
    sustainable printing option.”