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Printer Earth Technology

Xerox Demos Self-Erasing, Eco-Friendly Paper 204

Lucas123 writes "The same Xerox lab that brought us Ethernet, the GUI and the mouse has demonstrated paper that can be reused after printed text automatically deletes itself from its surface in a day. Instead of trashing or recycling after one use, a single piece of paper can be reused up to 100 times. 'The paper contains specially coded molecules that create a print after being exposed to ultraviolet light emitted from a thin bar in a printer. The ultraviolet bar itself is very small, so it can be used in mobile printers. The technology could also be useful for network printing.'"
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Xerox Demos Self-Erasing, Eco-Friendly Paper

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  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by djcapelis ( 587616 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @07:11PM (#23257762) Homepage
    Now... where *did* I put that document...
    • Now... where *did* I put that document...
      Next invention.. Self-wiping-self-flushing-self hand-washing-self-putting-on-clothes children. I'd pay for that!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *

        Self-wiping-self-flushing-self hand-washing-self-putting-on-clothes children.

    • I'm not looking forward to Xerox self-erasing toilet paper.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by UberDork ( 235964 )
      ... and here is *your* copy of our employment contract...
    • Looks like it's time for another White House 'upgrade'
    • Step 1: Print cheque onto self-erasing paper.
      Step 2: Buy expensive stuff with it.
      Step 3: Profit!!!

  • Hacking the paper? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by niko9 ( 315647 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @07:11PM (#23257770)
    Wonder if you can recover sensitive data much like you can with over written hard disk sectors...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by calebt3 ( 1098475 )
      Maybe. But considering that it's easier to recover data from normal paper...
      Anyways, can't you still shred this?
    • Ultra violet? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @08:14PM (#23258364)
      That stuff that comes from the sun? Don't want to take your valuable printings outside then.

      Back in the 1980s we used UV erasable EPROMS. With the correct UV lamps you could erase them in seconds or minutes. If you had natural light coming onto your desk then they'd get erased, but it would take a few days. Many an engineer was stumped as to why his circuit that worked fine yesterday was behaving badly today.

      Now the same problem will extend to accountants!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fractoid ( 1076465 )
        Reminds me of an interesting story from my boss at an old job - he'd had a prototype that he had to demonstrate to a potential customer, and it worked perfectly on the workbench but the moment the case was closed, it failed. Turned out that some signals were a little weak or somesuch, and the EPROM-based microprocessor (which, having been repeatedly erased during development, didn't have its cover on) was only detecting these signals when it had an incandescent light shining on its erase window. The product
        • Yes, light (of any sort) changes the thresholds etc of the gates (particularly the floating gates in flash memory). If you have an EPROM behaving like that then reprogramming will often make it better.

          I once had the inverse problem: a circuit that worked fine under normal light and crashed as soon as someone turned on the florescent lights. We at first thought it must be some poer surge thing and put scopes on the power etc etc. Eventually someone inadvertently covered the circuit and the problem went away,

        • iirc there was a known issue with microchips eprom based pic microcontrollers. If the die was illuminated the ram would power up in a predictable state. If the die was in the dark it would power up in a random state. I wonder if this was the issue you ran into or if it was something else.

          In any case think yourself lucky that you spotted it before moving to a device in a non windowed (hence not erasable) package.
      • If your prints are valuable why are you printing them on paper that will erase itself in a day's time?

        I'm seriously skeptical of this invention's utility. Besides not lasting more than 24 hours, what happens when people do normal "paper things" to the sheets; Highlight, annotate, fold, staple etc? Plus I've recycled paper as scrap (print on other side) and the paper tends to curl rather dramatically after a few passes through. Unless the special printer that's required has a straight path I can't see a sing
        • ...I can't see a single sheet lasting 100 uses.

          They forgot to mention that each sheet is a 1/4" thick and as stiff as plywood.

        • Not only that, but imagine when the printer keeps jamming because there's a stack of paper in there that has already been run through 50 times.
  • Not as in a crystal ball or anything, but I wonder if UV light will expose what was previously printed on these papers.
    • Not as in a crystal ball or anything, but I wonder if UV light will expose what was previously printed on these papers.
      You sound like my overly suspicious ex with her UV light and the bed-sheets.
      • You sound like my overly suspicious ex with her UV light and the bed-sheets.
        s/ex/puritancial mother when you were "becoming a man".

        There, FTF those of us who do not understand the meaning of "ex" unless it precedes -othermic, -ternal, or -tra fries please.

        JK. She's now your ex... I'm guessing she found something... sounds like you should say that she was just-the-right-amount-of suspicious, not overly suspicious.
    • UV turns the molecules black and time or heat flips them back to "blank" state so exposing the whole page to UV ought to just turn the whole page black.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Probably, if i know anything about chemistry its that its rarley absolute, it quite likely that statistical OCR will always be able to read what was printed on the paper.

      OFC if your printing secrets on reusable paper your then given to your enemies, you probably have other problems.

      If they can extend the lifetime of the pages to month or maybe even years, this would really help academic institudes and the such, where lots of stuff gets printed but is rarely needed for more than a couple of weeks.
  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @07:14PM (#23257800)
    But will the paper start to jam after a few uses?
    100 times is a lot of it to get jammed in the printer after a few uses.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Now after the White House gets the lost emails back, they can then archive them on this paper?
  • Dare say many a politician or despot (the only difference being one has better eating manners than the other and doesnt need a large supply of brown bags) will be very happy to hear this news. I can see the White house glowing like Vegas in future from all the well placed ultra-violet lighting.
  • "I swear, my term paper was here two days ago when I turned it in."
  • by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @07:25PM (#23257916)
    What if I want to keep it for longer? Just make it so it disappears when I shake it real hard.
  • by Feyr ( 449684 )
    everyone seem to be making fun of these, but i could see them being really useful. a lot of stuff gets printed for short term use and are shredded right after.

    say i go to a meeting, i print up a plan, diagram, couple pages of schematics for everyone at the meeting. that's a lot of wasted paper. then you do the presentation and everyone chucks it in the trash.

    only the ludittes keeps the paper copies after the meeting, since you're likely to send them the documents by email anyway. it's just more useful to ha
    • How about instead of paper, you'd have your own Kindle-type [] device. Except unlike Amazon's version, you'd have bluetooth to push presentation docs to everyone. And wifi, for grabbing content of the Intranet. Paper!? We don't need no stickin' paper!

      *goes home to work on hacking his Kindle*

      • Wow. You've just invented the hand-held computer.
        • Really? Wow. I never thought to compare my Thinkpad to my Kindle device and realize their the same thing.

          But seriously, they're nothing alike. The kindle is basically a paper replacement display and some guts to do it's job. Make it thinner, and you don't need paper in the office anymore. And no, a "handheld computer" is not the same thing.

          • Well the, how is it not a tablet PC? I'm not very familiar with the program but it sounds like you just described OneNote.
            • Visually compare a Tablet PC to the Kindle. Also compare the battery life. You can't liken a Kindle to a Tablet PC, anymore than you would say a compact sedan is the same as a semi truck pulling a 53' trailer. They serve different purposes.
              • When you said "Kindle-type", I thought you meant something with the form factor of the Kindle but with extra functionality, not the Kindle itself.

                Let me break this down for you. You want something with Wi-Fi and bluetooth to push and pull notes from meetings. To easily create notes in electronic form, you need a touch screen. Use color e-ink with that touchscreen and you end up with a tablet PC or handheld computer that has an e-ink display or a "Kindle-type" device with extra functionality. We are simp
      • Wake me when you've got such a foldable/rollable A3 form-factor device with minimum 600dpi res, decent color reproduction and contrast.
        • While I won't be the one to make such a device (not my field), I'm sure you'll see something close within 3-5 years.
          • by tftp ( 111690 )
            By asking for a "rollable" device the GP did not mean "on the rollers, because otherwise it takes 4 men to carry it."
    • exactly, most of us older people like to have paper in front of us because organizing pages on a desk is much easier than on a 15" screen. Will they make light pens to write on the paper for notes, that way we could print, take notes, mark up, then rescan!
      • by Feyr ( 449684 )
        OP here.
        im 25, young by any standard, and i still find paper has its uses, especially in meetings, or when comparing large amounts of data side by side.

        you just try making a large 10' DDL on your computer . not intuitive by any stretch :)
  • printed text automatically deletes itself from its surface in a day.

    bush white house officials were heard saying 'yippee!' and we seen frolicking to and fro.

    paper that erases itself: no need for any explanations about servers not being backed up, outlook doing this or that or any of those other handy excuses. "we didn't realize we used self-erasing paper. honest, we didn't."
    • Oh hell, I wish all of DC would start using this paper. I for one welcome forced "sun sets" (erased) on all future bills. At the rate government keeps growing, it could use some self assisted management. Lets start with the tax code eh?

      That's right all you DC political bitches, the door swings both ways!
  • Dilbert (Score:4, Funny)

    by MikeDirnt69 ( 1105185 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @07:39PM (#23258034) Homepage
    I wonder how it would show up on Dilbert cartoons: "Here. Read these 50 pages and make a report. You have 24h"
    • I think at one point Dilbert cartoon suggested edible paper (to be consumed right after reading---for secrecy!)

      Solve printing, waste, AND world hunger all in one product!

  • Xerox has been trumpeting this technology at least as long as I've been slinging copiers for a living (nearly 10 years).

    Considering how Xerox writes contracts, I wouldn't be surprised if they developed this technology for their own use!

    "I know that oppressive contract I signed with Xerox had a service level agreement...Where is it?! IT WAS RIGHT HERE!!"
  • Print this story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @07:42PM (#23258076) Homepage

    Next thing we'll have is DRM enabled printing that refuses to print this story unless it gets printed with self-erasing ink. But you can print it on permanent ink if you are a registered user. Registration is free. Enter your SSN here.

  • Double-take... did anyone else read "Xerox Hemos Self-effacing, CowboyNeal Pager"?

    Or did I just come to the realization that too many 20-hour days is bad for reading comprehension and eyesight, and taking a break on slashdot is possibly not the best course of action?
  • Is next big thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xSacha ( 1000771 )
    This is going to get picked up and achieve wide use if it's cheap enough.
    The mouse, GUI and ethernet: these guys know what people want.

    Perfect timing for all these companies who say they want to become environmentally friendly. Same companies that go through reams of paper every day.If there's cost savings involved as well this is a no-brainer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 )
      I don't think it'll be big. E-paper/ink readers are here and they just need to get faster, cheaper, bigger displays, thinner, and evenntually color (you know, all the upgrade cycles all previous electronics went through). I'd say because of flash/wireless, capacity is already there/superior to any paper solution.

      The big hurdles to this paper is simple the work it will take to gather the old paper up, stack them neatly, and make them fit for printing. How much premium will this paper command? What % will
      • by pla ( 258480 )
        I don't think it'll be big. E-paper/ink readers are here and they just need to get faster, cheaper, bigger displays, thinner, and evenntually color

        While a niche certainly exists for what you describe, e-readers in anything even vaguely like their current form will simply never replace paper.

        Now, if/when nanotech lets us make them so thin, cheap, and high resolution that telling the difference from real paper would require more than casual inspection, they might really replace dead trees. I don't see t
  • Wait, I know!
    They reinvented thermal paper! On purpose!
    • My thought exactly. I remember my first job, which was in a research lab (back in the 1980s). We had notebook after notebook filled with tens of thousands of pages of mass spectrometer data, printed out on a trusty HP thermal printer (which BTW, speaking of the old days, was connected to our HP1000 via HP-IB bus). Thing is, come the 1990s it became apparent that those old notebooks turned out to be filled with pretty much *blank* paper.

      Fortunately the end data had been saved - to mag tape. :-D
  • Welcome to the 1970s and thermal printers. They self erased too and paper has always been re-usable.
  • Most (if not all) new paper comes from farmed trees - a renewable resource. We don't cut down virgin forests for paper. It's actually the recycling of paper that is a disaster for the environment. To this day, the paper recycling industry is the largest polluter of water in the US, due to all of the harsh chemicals needed in the process. Not to mention it's very expensive and requires government subsidies.
    • by AlHunt ( 982887 )
      Any chance you have a site or two handy for reference? I'll help spread the word.

      • by tftp ( 111690 )
        This area is heavily debated because nobody can exactly calculate what it costs to produce X from raw materials vs. recycle X from used materials. But Wikipedia [] has some writing on the subject.
    • That may be true, but that doesn't address how used paper is disposed of - which is part of the problem. It may cost more to make recycled paper, but at least the waste paper it's made from isn't ending up in a land fill or a dump.
  • I missed the chance for an obvious Bush joke, so in all seriousness....

    I moved about a month ago, and still haven't unpacked my printers. I think I printed three or four pages on a friend's printer last month, but that's it.

    Virtually everything that I do these days is electronic - letters, ordering, resumes, photos - you name it. The only times that I print anything are handouts for meetings once in a long, long while, and drafts of really important proposals where I find that actually reading them
  • We wrote on paper, then were able to reuse it at a later date. Sure, it wasn't as fancy as a printer, but the pencil and eraser sure worked well enough for me...
    • We wrote on paper, then were able to reuse it at a later date. Sure, it wasn't as fancy as a printer, but the pencil and eraser sure worked well enough for me...
      So you erased entire sheets of paper with your pencil erasor, and reused them each 100 times?
  • I doubt it was the same lab - the lab that brought us Ethernet (and the GUI, and Object Oriented programming) was their Palo-Alto Research Center (PARC) which has been spun off as a separate company.
  • What happens when you place the paper in direct sunlight (which, too, contains UV wavelengths)?
    • by v1 ( 525388 )
      it probably slowly blackens, like what happens if you place thermal paper near a heat source
  • ...except for documents that have been marked up, stapled, or folded. So, about 80% of the stuff I print wouldn't be reusable anyway. That adds up to a big fat MEH.
    • ..except for documents that have been marked up, stapled, spindled or folded. So, about 80% of the stuff I print wouldn't be reusable anyway. That adds up to a big fat MEH.

      Exactly. The vast majority of copiers and printers are anal compulsive about feedstock. I can't imagine that paper that had been printed, read, filed, stuck in an envelope and run through in baskets / out baskets would sit prettily in the printer for the next go around.

      Maybe this is an end run to getting more Xerox printer service co

  • The paper isn't going to be very reusable if you want to make notes on it. Which is the main advantage to printing things out in the first place (the other advantage being the ability to spread loose paper out on a table or any other large, flat surface).
  • That printer's paper handling had better be absolutely amazing - I can't foresee a situation where a stack of daily-used, mildly dog-eared papers DOESN'T jam the thing on a regular basis.
  • ... they have to say it'll last 100 times or it won't be economical.

    computers MAKE more paper, not less of it. why do you think printers have been getting faster and faster. paperless office is a myth.

    • by v1 ( 525388 )
      Paperless office could probably be possible if nothing ever had to go INTO or OUT FROM the office.

      Just had a random thought... I bet some of the spammers have a paperless office.

  • Now we know how the government archived those missing e-mails.
  • Just think, you can safely print out your "standard lobbyist price list" and it will erase itself, thus rendering it useless in corruption trials. w00t!
  • newspaper? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:20PM (#23258848) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if that would work for newspapers? If they could make the paper more durable, you could read the paper, and when you picked up the next day's paper you could toss them the old one for a "deposit" discount on the next one. They'd just use it again. Save them on paper costs?

    • They should just make the paper itself edible. So by buying the morning paper you're at the same time buying breakfast.
  • Xerox invents a paper where the printing disappears in a day. Not a bad idea for a copier company. Now you can make permanent copies from your prints and then reuse the print paper. Their new CEO is a lot like Carly!

  • In a related story, the White House has ordered 6 thousand reams of the new paper, to be used to print out email [].
  • Hmm, I wonder if a loop of something similar (with a longer lifespan) might be useful for yea old printed log files (the ones continuously printed to prevent against adulterated logs). Since a lot of them are shredded when their electronic versions are deleted...
  • Papers get folded, stapled, wadded up, etc. etc.

    How will reuse work if any of these things happen? I have to wonder how reusable the paper will be if the slightest, stain, or other ink-mark touches the page.

    I can also imagine desperately trying to read the faint, disappearing words when someone forgot to change out the paper-tray for more indelible printing.

    Electronic documents were/are the solution to this. I can hear moans from the ghost of Xerox Parc. . . after inventing the modern computer Xerox is st
  • This stuff would be much more environmentally friendly than using 100 sheets of regular paper if it weren't for the fact that it's made of lead, thorium, mercury, arsenic, and aloe.

    Well, the aloe is okay.
  • Let me write you a check....
  • The mouse and GUI were invented at the Standford Research Institute. Google the name "Doug Englebart".

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis