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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Transient Paper

Air Date: Week of

“Paul Smith, manager of XRCC’s new materials design and synthesis lab, shows the 16-hour disappearing capabilities of the temporary documents.” (Photo: Greig Reekie)

Xerox researchers have created an experimental paper that erases itself. Dr. Paul Smith of the Xerox Research Center of Canada tells host Bruce Gellerman about the erasable paper.



ANNOUNCER: And now the Amazing Gellermano presents the disappearing document. A trick that will astonish you and your friends. Ladies and Gentlemen, watch the writing vanish before your very eyes!!!

GELLERMAN: It seems that scientists at Xerox Research Center of Canada have invented paper that erases itself. Paul Smith is manager of the center in Toronto and he joins me on the line. Dr. Smith, how does it work?

SMITH: This is a printer that doesn’t use toner or ink. This is a printer that actually creates an image on the paper using light. So it’s a special printer that has a light bar in it. And the part that makes the image is actually the piece of paper. So the paper has a coating on it that when the light hits the coating the coating changes color from colorless to black. And then over a length of time, about a day, the black color then goes back to the original colorless form so that you can use it again.

Paul Smith, manager of XRCC’s new materials design and synthesis lab, shows the 16-hour disappearing capabilities of the temporary documents. (Photo: Greig Reekie)

GELLERMAN: So, it only lasts a day.

SMITH: It lasts between 16 to 24 hours and then the page is blank. Or if you’d like to use it again within a few minutes of just being printed you can just feed it back into the printer and the image is erased and you can rewrite onto the paper again.

GELLERMAN: What if you want to keep the image?

SMITH: The image only lasts for actually the day and then it’s colorless. So if you wanted to keep the image then the ideal thing to do is to print it using your normal form using toner or ink.

GELLERMAN: Now you see it, now you don’t.

SMITH: Yes, that’s right.

GELLERMAN: And, can you use the paper over and over and over again?

SMITH: Yes, we’ve used the paper between 20 and 50 times.

GELLERMAN: So, this really is kind of the ultimate in recycling.

SMITH: Yes, I think people really like paper. They like the feel of it and they like the ability to write on it and just the general usefulness of it. But ideally they would like to perhaps not to have to throw away so much. Yeah, this is really, a recyclable paper.

GELLERMAN: I know in our office we go through a lot of paper and I use it just you know for as long as it takes me to do a story then I toss it out and put it in the recycling bin.

SMITH: Yeah, we looked at all the applications when we did a study on the way people use paper. And people use paper for things in the office. Things like just printing out a daily calendar or perhaps the e-mail they take to the meeting or the agenda. Or in the case where they use it the shortest length of time is just the cover page that comes out of the print job. So there are many applications that really just use the paper just for the one day.

GELLERMAN: You know when you write those love letters professing eternal love you want to make sure then it’s not on one of these pieces of paper.

SMITH: Yeah, yes. In our trial printer we have a, you pick the tray that you want to print the transient page on. So if you want to keep it you’ll tell the printer that you want to use just normal toner and ink. And if you want it to be a transient page you tell the printer that this needs to be a transient document and it will pick the correct paper path.

GELLERMAN: When is this going to be available in a printer near me?

SMITH: Really this is still in the development phase. So we’re looking at a few years away.

GELLERMAN: Well, Dr. Smith, thank you very much.

SMITH: Thanks very much for having me.

GELLERMAN: Paul Smith is laboratory manager of Xerox research center of Canada.



“Experimental Xerox Paper Erases Itself, Results in Temporary Documents on Reusable Paper”


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