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Home / News / Next Big Thing – Unprinting

Next Big Thing – Unprinting

New process removes ink from paper, allowing it to be reused up to five times. Praise science

I’m sorry. Un-what?

Unprinting. It’s a technique developed in the UK which could redefine the way we recycle paper – by using heat to vaporise print and leaving the sheet ready for reuse.

What kind of witchcraft –

No enchantments here friend, just good old science. Laser light can be shone on the print in ultra-fast pulses, burning off text and images but leaving the paper fibres themselves relatively unscathed. If the technique can be incorporated into printer design, it could mean we’d be able to reuse a sheet of paper up to five times.

Lasers? There goes my energy bill

Not necessarily. The University of Cambridge researchers behind it believe that this method uses far less energy than traditional paper recycling: at worst, half the carbon emissions are released, and at best it’s a mere one-twentieth. But, as Technology Review points out, the hard part is working out how to create a device capable of performing the task – while current laser printers heat toner in order to print, removing that toner requires a higher temperature.