BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
According to the WWF, the world goes through about a million tonnes of paper per day, and it seems to be getting worse. In the past, all the average person has been able to do about it is use less paper and recycle what we do use, but a new kind of paper invented by Yadong Yin at the University of California at Riverside could change this in a huge way.
Yin and his team have created a kind of paper that can be printed on using ultraviolet light, and all you have to do to erase what’s on the page is heat it up or leave it for five days. To make it, they combined Prussian Blue dye with titanium dioxide to make nanoparticles which could be applied to normal paper as a coating. At that point, they can shine UV light on it, causing the titanium to turn the dye white in certain places. The process can be specific enough to produce either white words on a blue background or vice versa, with blue on white being easier to read.
Since the paper can be reused up to 80 times, this could have a huge impact on the environment, theoretically being able to reduce our paper usage to a fraction of its former levels. Although this isn’t the first reusable paper that’s been invented, the low cost of the materials for this one makes it much more viable for mainstream use. The fact that the words disappear after five days could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the context, but if it gets used for the kinds of things we’d normally throw out if they were printed in ink, then it could seriously reduce waste, especially since we can still save whatever we need to on computers.
It’s not just the trees that will benefit from this, though. Since almost 1 per cent of all carbon emissions come from paper production, reusable paper could also reduce air pollution. Even though 1 per cent doesn’t sound like much, the looming threat of climate change makes even small improvements worthwhile, especially since it’s within our control.
Unfortunately, it will take a while before anyone can use this on a large scale, because Yin and his team haven’t finished inventing the printer that will be able to write on this paper. But once they’ve got the whole process finished, the new paper will be a much more sustainable alternative to our current printing methods.