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Unprint It Please

We have all heard of laser printers and most of us have used laser printers, but not an unprinter.

A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge in England have created a laser unprinter that can remove ink without damaging the paper.

Both methods use lasers, but the “unprinting” methods are very different.

Laser printers use a laser to give individual “pixels” on a piece of paper a positive charge.

The laser unprinter works by tracing the outline of the toner and then flash-frying it off using the device’s laser. The trick is vaporizing the toner without damaging the paper.  To do this, the team uses a green laser light that is freely absorbed by dark toner, which passes through fibers in paper.

The main goal of unprinting is to cut down on the carbon footprint of the paper and printing industries. Manufacturing paper is an incredibly chaotic business that produces millions of tons of CO2 every year.

Recycling paper is a great start, but it’s still a very expensive and resource-intensive process.  If we could simply delete sheets of paper, we could cut down on electricity usage, CO2 output, and fresh water, which is becoming less abundant every year.  Each person would only have to buy a single ream of paper ideally.

In a worst-case scenario, The University of Cambridge unprinting method has half the carbon emissions of recycling.  The best-case scenario, the unprinting is almost 20 times as efficient.  It’s now a matter of building the technology into a commercial device or not.  The team admits this is probably a while away but says that the invention can slowly change the paper world.

The researchers are pretty confident that they’ve come up with a solution with their unprinter being compatible with both photocopied or laser printed paper.

Experiments are still in progress while the team fine tunes the technology.   They are also deciding whether to file patents and try to commercialize the idea or not.

New Scientist 
The Register
Cambridge University 

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