Greener “Unprinting” Techniques

Ever since lasers replaced messy inkjet printing techniques, researchers have been looking to use lasers in other ways, as well. Well, finally, you can vaporize ink, words and images on paper through the use of lasers, something which is very eco friendly and saves on a lot of paper and recycling. It simply undoes the process on the same piece of paper, conserving both paper and extra printing and developing costs. Toner is mostly made of plastic polymer and carbon, and it is the polymer in the paper that is heated up to such an extent by the laser that it is vaporized. This technique is not ready for mass production yet, but it has successfully been used for removing words and images from ordinary paper, so it is simply a matter of continuing to test and evaluate the process before it is ready to mass market.

And how does the paper look after the ink has been removed? The BBC article shows a microscopic image of the paper where the image has been vaporized and the paper fibers are slightly indented because of the removal process. This would hardly be visible to the naked eye, however, and the image does show how the paper is certainly intact and quite resilient after the process is complete. It has a very small simple crater-like effect upon the paper, on a microscopic level, which is most likely due to the ink having been imbedded slightly in the paper before it was vaporized and removed. This would save on costs spent producing and replacing paper, it would save on recycling, and it would save on ink, printing and electrical costs. Obviously, it is just a small step in the right direction, but it is certainly an effective one!

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