Samantha Perry

Fahrenheit 250: The Temperature for Reprintable Paper

Samantha Perry

Since I was in middle school, the possibility of a paperless society has seemed to be right around the corner. But every year I found myself with a backpack full of books and a desk cluttered with notebooks and paper. I was even given a printing allowance in college to ensure I did not print more paper than was necessary (which was impossible to quantify as a writing major). The digital age has certainly contributed to using less paper, but if the goal is to continue to use less, will we have to go fully digital?

Maybe farther in the future we will, but for now, recent innovations have struck a compromisen—ew technology mixes both print and digital formats. The Everlast notebook allows you to write, draw or doodle on what appears to be a normal piece of paper. With an accompanying app, you can take a picture of your handwritten pages to save them before wiping each sheet clean with a bit of water. The saved document is formatted to look like it’s always been on your mobile device, is saved in the correct page order and can be easily transferred to other online platforms.

There are other similar products on the market as well, including Wipenote, which acts as a reusable whiteboard-like notebook. Their pens have ink that dries in seconds as well as an eraser tip for easy reuse of the pages. And anything you write is smudge-proof!

Studies have shown that information is processed differently when seen on a screen versus paper. We connect better with words and images on a physical piece of paper, which usually means we end up remembering it better as well. So products like those from Everlast and Wipenote provide an ideal compromise in a digital world, especially for people looking to save a few trees in their lifetime. 

Another innovative solution to reducing paper use is the idea of reprintable paper. In a recent collaboration between the University of California, Riverside, and the Shangdong University in China, researchers developed a coated paper that will make reprinting possible. The coated paper works with a printer that does not require ink, but instead uses the power of light. Nanoparticles on the coating change colors when exposed to the printer’s light, producing the desired letters and words. And reusing the paper is as easy as adding heat—250 degrees to be exact. This causes the words to “disappear” from the page, and the coated paper can then be used at least 80 more times.

Based on these developing technologies, it looks like paper will still have its place in the digital age among our smartphones, tablets and other screened devices. So those who may be reluctant to give up their notebooks and paper products don’t need to worry just yet.

Did You Know?
Engineers are taking advantage of the complex and sturdy structures of origami to make robots, aid future space missions and design new medical equipment. Technical origami can be used to innovate surgery and change the world of design. 

Photo Credit: Christian Sisson

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