Erasable paper soon to be a reality

17 Jul 2008

Xerox Corporation is due to launch revolutionary technology in the coming months that will allow prints to be made on which images last only a day, so the paper can be used again and again.

Andrew Cosgrove, manager for environmental health and safety, Xerox Europe, told the hardware manufacturer and document solutions provider has been working on this ‘erasable paper’ idea for a number of years.

“At present, paper can only be recycled six times because the fibres get too frayed after that. This breakthrough technology developed by our Innovation Group means when you put the paper you have used in the printer, the heat of the machine makes the print disappear, or else it self-erases after a day,” he said.

“The fact is that at the moment people use paper, and it’s estimated 85pc of it will end up in the bin at the end of the week because it’s for short-term use, such as reference materials or emails.”

To develop erasable paper, researchers needed to identify ways to create temporary images. The ‘ah-ha’ moment came from developing compounds that change colour when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear.

Temporary documents are part of Xerox’s ongoing investments in sustainable innovation – or green products – that delivers measurable benefits to the environment, such as solid-ink printing technology, which generates 90pc less waste than comparable laser printers.

The company is well established in the area of recycled paper, having introduced it in 1973. It recently brought out another sustainable option – ‘high yield paper’ – which involves 90pc of a tree being pulped in its making, rather than the standard 45pc, Cosgrove notes. Optimised for digital printing, this new paper is lightweight, resulting in lower postage costs for customers.

By Sorcha Corcoran

Pictured: Paul Smith, manager of XRCC’s new materials design and synthesis lab, shows the 16-hour disappearing capabilities of the temporary document