In an effort to fight the detrimental environmental impact of inkjet printing, researchers have invented a new type of “paper” that can be printed with light and re-written up to 80 times. Their invention employs the color-changing chemistry of nanoparticles, which can be applied via a thin coating to a variety of surfaces – including conventional paper.

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Researchers from Shandong University in China, the University of California, Riverside and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently published a study detailing the invention of light-printable, rewritable paper.

“The greatest significance of our work is the development of a new class of solid-state photo-reversible color-switching system to produce an ink-free light-printable rewritable paper that has the same feel and appearance as conventional paper, but can be printed and erased repeatedly without the need for additional ink,” explains Yadong Yin, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Riverside. “Our work is believed to have enormous economic and environmental merits to modern society.”

Why not just use recycled paper, you might ask? As explains, the chemicals used in paper production are a leading source of industrial pollution, and abandoned paper makes up about 40 percent of the contents of landfills. Recycled paper contributes to the pollution problem through the process of ink removal. Add to that problems around deforestation, and the case for minimizing paper usage is a strong one.

Related: Should your family give up paper towels?

The new light-printable paper lends itself perfectly to applications where printed information is only needed for a short time, and it could be applied to any medium used for this purpose. “We believe the rewritable paper has many practical applications involving temporary information recording and reading, such as newspapers, magazines, posters, notepads, writing easels, product life indicators, oxygen sensors, and rewritable labels for various applications,” Yin said


Images via UC Riverside and Aidenvironment, Wikimedia Commons