Eraseable photocopies

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Xerox has developed what looks like a fairly cool piece of technology: self-erasing photocopies:
Of the 1,200 pages the average office worker prints per month, 44.5 percent are for daily use assignments, drafts or e-mail. In her research, scouring the waste produced by office workers, she found that 21 percent of black-and-white copier documents were returned to the recycling bin on the same day they were produced.

We were surprised by our results, she said. Nobody looks at the ephemeral information going through peoples waste baskets.

Her research is part of a three-year-old technology development effort to design an add-on system for an office copier to produce transient documents that can be easily reused. The researchers now have a prototype system that will produce documents on a specially coated paper with a light yellow tint. Currently, the process works without toner and produces a low-resolution document that appears to be printed with purple ink.


The company said the precise nature of the technology was proprietary and that Xerox had applied for a number of related patents covering the invention. The researchers describe the invention as being based on compounds that can change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light, but can then gradually revert to their original appearance. The compounds currently self-erase in about 16 to 24 hours, or can be erased immediately when heated.

Two initial thoughts here. First, the reason I print stuff out is usually so that I can edit it, which means that I'm writing on it in pen. This technology would only be useful for that kind of application if the pen marks are erasable too. I suppose you could use some kind of pen with a laser diode to mark the paper, but you'd also need it to be a color that contrasted with the printing.

Second, just because the printing isn't visible doesn't mean that it's not detectable via analytic techniques. If this technology ever gets deployed, employees will have to be taught that sensitive material needs to be shredded, not reused.


Sounds neat. I'm like you -- I print mainly to edit. Although I'm comfortable reading the document on paper and then editing it on the computer. However, I can't do the read-edit cycle only on the computer -- my brain just doesn't like reading for long periods of time on a monitor.

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