Palo Alto (CA) - Xerox believes it has found a way to dramatically reduce the consumption of paper: The firm has developed a technology that automatically erases the prints on paper after one day - and allows the paper to be reused "multiple times".
The paperless office, a thought that traditional paper would be more and more redundant in times of digital documents, has largely remained a vision: Most organizations still use considerable amounts of paper to print documents on traditional paper instead of filing them only electronically.
According to Paperrecycles.org, the U.S. alone consumes about 100 million tons of paper every year. And even if 51.5% of that paper is estimated to be recycled, the generated waste and the energy necessary to create recycled paper is substantial - especially if the number of temporary prints - documents that often are printed for convenience purposes - is considered: Xerox claims that about 20% of prints made are used only temporarily and are quickly discarded.
A new technology, which Xerox calls "erasable paper", could dramatically change this scenario: The company said it has developed a technology that blurs the line between paper documents and digital displays and, in its present version, self-erases prints in about 16-24 hours. According to the company, the erasable paper may use "compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear."
Far from being a commercial reality, Xerox describes the technology as a "part of a laboratory project that focuses on the concept of future dynamic documents." However, when and if erasable paper will become a reality it will need a special printers as well as special papers in order to create a print using a light bar that provides a specific wavelength of light as a writing source. Xerox said that the print fades naturally over time or can be immediately erased by exposing it to heat.
Xerox spokesman Bill McKee told TG Daily that the erasable paper can be reused between 20 and 50 times at this stage and mentioned that this number "is likely to increase over time." Another goal of the development is to develop different versions of the paper: McKee mentioned that there could be variants that erase contents not only within a full day, but also within four or eight hours.
Xerox did not say when its erasable paper could be commercially available.