No Ink? No Problem. New Technology Eliminates the Consumable
According to Phys.org, a group of scientists at Shandong University, UC Riverside and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have created a light-printable paper. Using UV light, the paper can be printed on and the type can subsequently be erased from the paper by heating it to 250°F for 10 minutes — a process that can be repeated more than 80 times. Any conventional paper can be turned into this futuristic substrate via the application of a thin coating that uses the color-changing chemistry of nanoparticles.
Phys.org explains that the coating is made up of two types of nanoparticles, "Those made of Prussian blue, which is a common inexpensive, nontoxic blue pigment that turns colorless when it gains electrons; and titanium dioxide (TiO2), a photocatalytic material that accelerates chemical reactions upon UV light exposure."
Yadong Yin, Chemistry Professor at the University of California, Riverside, told Phys.org that the process will be inexpensive when used for a commercial scale:
The light-printable paper is indeed cost-competitive with conventional paper. The coating materials are inexpensive, and the production cost is also expected to be low as the coating can be applied to the surface of conventional paper by simple processes such as soaking or spraying. The printing process is also more cost-effective than the conventional one as no inks are needed. Most importantly, the light-printable paper can be reused over 80 times, which significantly reduces the overall cost.
The impetus for researchers to make this technology available is the growing concern for the environment — with pollution from ink and potential global impacts from paper production and recycling. However, there are a few key things to point out. One is that the printed content will fade over time, making it only useful for temporary content, such as newspapers, not for products that need more permanence. Phys.org cites five days at full strength and then a slow fade to the paper's original state.
The second thing is that it is currently only applicable for monochrome printing. Popular Mechanics points out that implementing grayscale shading isn't even possible yet. However, Yin told Phys.org that the researchers are looking into faster printing methods and full-color printing.
At the end of 2016, former students of the University of Technology in Delft, Netherlands, and founders Tocano, revealed an inkless "printing" technology that uses an infra-red laser that passes through a lens and burns the paper, a process called "carbonization," according to euronews. The trick is to determine the correct laser intensity in combination with the substrate so as not to cause combustion.
euronews reports that Tocano — which was funded by Climate-KIC, a climate change innovation initiative based in the EU — is developing the technology for commercial use with the thought that the technology would be beneficial for printing manufacturers as an environmentally friendly option to traditionally used consumables.
The company's Commercial Director, Arnaud van der Veen, told euronews that they believe it will be possible to create printing presses for packaging, books and more:
We [will] first focus on industrial markets, so for example, you can think of printing on boxes or printing books, etc. really large industrial sized machines and from that point on we will go to regular normal home users or office users.