Scientists develop the ‘un-printer’, a machine that wipes documents clean

scientists develop the un printer a machine that wipes documents clean blank paperFor people working in offices, the sound of the laser printer kicking into action will be a familiar one. A day won’t go by without the machine cranking into action, delivering sheet after sheet of warm, freshly printed paper. Of all those printed sheets, many will — even before the working day is over — end up in a box marked ‘recycle’. That’s all well and good, but if only there was an easier and more environmentally friendly way of using the paper again without having to send it away to be pulped.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge in the UK may have found a clever solution. They claim to have developed a way of removing ink from printed paper using a laser-based technique.

According to a New Scientist report, the paper looks as good as new following the process, with no noticeable degradation having taken place.

One of the scientists involved in the research, David Leal-Ayala, explained to the New Scientist that the laser-based method vaporizes the toner. The challenge was to find the appropriate energy level for the laser — one that would remove the ink but wasn’t so strong that it damaged the paper. After much experimentation, the team managed to achieve their objective.

“We have repeated the printing/unprinting process three times on the same piece of paper with good results,” Leal-Ayala said. “The more you do it, though, the more likely it is for the laser to damage the paper, perhaps yellowing it.”

The New Scientist’s report points out that while Japanese scientists at Toshiba have also developed a machine which can remove ink from paper, it only works with a special blue toner made by the company. The Cambridge scientists, on the other hand, have managed to develop a non-abrasive method which does away with the need for chemical solvents.

Speaking about the Japanese company’s technology, Julian Allwood, the Cambridge team’s project supervisor, said “Toshiba have been selling the ‘e-blue’ toner for a while which, like old thermal fax paper, fades under the right type of light. However that, of course, applies only if you buy their magic toner.”

He continued, “Our ambition was to develop a method that would remove conventional toner from conventional paper in order to allow re-use of the paper. Toshiba’s is a different approach to the same problem.”

The Cambridge scientists hope to build a prototype of their invention for use in offices. If successful, it could help to cut down on carbon emissions by up to 80 percent over recycling — as well as time wasted in offices looking for blank sheets of paper.

[Image: Michael D Brown / Shutterstock]

Emerging Tech

The grainy texture of Saturn’s rings reveals clues to their origins

New analysis of data from Cassini shows that Saturn's rings are not smooth, but rather are grainy in texture. Scientists believe that tiny moons within the rings cause materials to cluster and form clumps and straw-like patterns.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope gets upgrade to aid its hunt for habitable exoplanets

The Very Large Telescope is growing even bigger. The latest addition to the telescope's suite of instruments is a tool called NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region) which will hunt for exoplanets in the nearby Alpha Centauri star…
Emerging Tech

Your smartphone could be the key to predicting natural disasters

A challenge for atmospheric scientists is gathering enough data to understand the complex, planet-wide weather system. Now a scientist has come up with a clever idea to gather more data using smartphones and Internet of Things devices.
Emerging Tech

Tormented robot pulls a gun on its creators in latest Boston Dynamics spoof

Boston Dynamics' remarkable robots often receive a good few shoves in its videos, and the eager mistreatment recently inspired a team of L.A.-based video artists to give its rather amusing take on the matter.
Smart Home

A new survey by Adobe shows an evolving market for voice applications

A new consumer survey conducted by Adobe Analytics has uncovered a growing desire for more diversity in voice-controlled applications and devices as well as growing engagement with voice ads.
Emerging Tech

Live long and prosper? Experimental compound could slow down the aging process

Want to extend your natural lifespan beyond its current limits? A metabolite of biomolecules — found in pomegranates of all places — could help slow the aging process. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Airbus’ new single-aisle jet has longest range in its class and a fancy cabin

Airbus has unveiled the design of its new A321XLR jet, an aircraft that it says will be capable of trips of around 5,400 miles, making it the world's longest range single-aisle airliner when it takes to the skies in 2023.
Computing

Google Calendar is back online. Here’s the latest on the outage

Google Calendar is down, and that means that instead of a day packed with back-to-back meetings and timely reminders, users are instead being treated to an error message. Here's the latest on the worldwide outage.
Emerging Tech

A tiny magnet accomplishes enormous feat, sets a new world record

A magnet housed in the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has set a record for the strongest continuous DC magnetic field ever recorded. Here's why that matters to our future.
News

Brush up on your makeup skills with YouTube’s new augmented reality feature

YouTube will soon let users try on makeup while watching popular makeup tutorials through augmented reality. Viewers will be able to actually try on the makeup products the online tutorials are showcasing and promoting. 
News

Congress already wants to block rollout of Facebook’s cryptocurrency

It only took a few hours after Facebook provided details of its Libra cryptocurrency on Tuesday for lawmakers in Congress to tell the social media giant to pump the breaks. Facebook was asked to stop development until Congress weighs in.
Emerging Tech

Check out this clever robot dishwasher, designed for busy restaurants

We've already witnessed robot wait staff and robot chefs working at restaurants. Now we have a high-tech robot dishwasher offering a fast, reliable, and environmentally friendly service.
Emerging Tech

Drone delivery services may prove too noisy for some in Australia

While delivery drones can offer benefits such as speed and efficiency, the machines still make quite a racket when they're in the sky. And the issue has now reached the inbox of the Australian government.
Smart Home

We tested anti-snoring devices on our loudest friends. Here’s what worked

If your partner snores and it keeps you up at night, you may be interested in the latest anti-snoring technology. We tested out a few different gadgets to find out what they do and whether they work or not.