Xerox on track for self-erasing paper

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By  Published  December 8, 2006

Scientists at Xerox are in the process of finalising the invention of a type of paper that can self-erase its content after a period of between 16-24 hours, and can thus be used multiple times.

According to Xerox, the experimental technology — the result of a partnership between the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC) and Xerox subsidiary the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) — could eventually help to reduce the amount of discarded paper, by eliminating pages that are viewed just once.

Xerox estimates that as many as two out of every five pages printed in the workplace were used in this way, such as e-mails and web pages.

“Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content,” explained Paul Smith, manager of XRCC’s New Materials Design and Synthesis Lab.

“Of course, we’d all like to use less paper, but we know from talking with customers that many people still prefer to work with information on paper.

“Self-erasing documents for short-term use offer the best of both worlds,” he claimed.

Although in its pilot stage,Xerox has already filed for patents on the technology, which it has called ‘erasable paper’.

According to Xerox, PARC researchers have already developed a prototype printer, which creates on-page content using a light bar. This bar provides a specific wavelength of light as the writing source. The content then fades naturally over time or can be immediately erased by exposing it to heat.

Global consumers will have to wait a while, however, before such products are sold in stores. “This will remain a research project for some time,” stated Eric Shrader, area manager, Industrial Inkjet Systems, PARC.

“Our experiments prove that it can be done, and that is the first step, but not the only one, to developing a system that is commercially viable,” he added.

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