This Low-Cost Paper Can Be Erased And Reprinted Dozens Of Times

This Low-Cost Paper Can Be Erased And Reprinted Dozens Of Times

These days, we send email instead of snail mail, read e-books instead of paperback books, and make announcements via Facebook instead of fliers. But if you think ink and paper is obsolete, you are very mistaken. According to Paper Life Cycle, paper production is still growing by 2.8 percent each year, and the EPA estimates that in 2013, the amount of paper that was recycled averaged 275 pounds per person in the U.S. Clearly, paper is still important.

But in a perfect world, we'd never need to dump paper into a recycling bin in the first place. That's the hope for a new development by researchers Ting Wang, Dairong Chen, and their colleagues: they created a low-cost, nontoxic material that can be printed and erased up to 40 times before any decline in quality.

The material itself is a combination of tungsten oxide and polyvinyl pyrrolidone. By exposing the material to UV light for at least 30 seconds, you can turn it from white to deep blue. Bringing a stencil into the equation lets you "print" words and images. Without any interference, the printing will stay around for a day or two before disappearing on its own. If you want it to last longer, you can add a small amount of a chemical called polyacrylonitrile, which will boost its staying power to 10 days. If you want it to disappear sooner, just add heat for 30 minutes. Who knows—the printers of the future may rely on UV light. Learn more about futuristic materials in the videos below.

Chemists Create A Rewritable Paper

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9 Futuristic Materials

Self-healing concrete and aerogels may be in our future.

08:36

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    One of the lightest solid materials in the world, aerogels are gels where the liquid has been replaced with gas. They’re great for insulation because the air doesn’t transfer heat very well, and they’re almost transparent, so they could be good for insulating windows. (0:42)

  • 2

    In 2015, scientists designed an 80-nanometer-thin material that uses tiny gold antennas to counteract light reflecting off of any objects it wraps around, hiding the fact that either the material or the object is even there. (1:37)

  • 3

    Self-healing concrete contains limestone-creating bacteria that can repair any cracks that form. The bacteria can live for up to 200 years. (7:17)

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