Wall Street Journal Cites Xerox's Experiments in Erasable Paper as Environmental Breakthrough
In its annual search for breakthrough technologies, The Wall Street Journal cited Xerox Corporation's experimental erasable paper as a top innovation in the environment category. It was one of 30 technologies selected from more than 800 entries in fields ranging from medical/biotech to network security and semiconductors. Xerox's technology prints temporary documents that erase themselves, allowing the paper to be used again and again and reducing excessive paper dependency in the workplace.
The experimental erasable paper uses light to image the paper, which automatically erases hours or days after the page is printed. Erasable paper allows reuse of the same sheet of paper, reducing paper waste. Editors of The Wall Street Journal selected the technology as an innovation that "breaks with conventional processes and goes beyond marginal improvements in products and services."
Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on printed pages for reading and absorbing content. Xerox estimates up to two of every five pages printed in offices are for "daily" use -- printed for a single viewing then discarded within hours. With this new technology, people would be able to print "temporary" documents (emails and web pages) and reuse the paper rather than discarding it.
The ability to re-image a sheet of paper has enormous environmental implications since re-use is much preferred to recycling. For example, it takes about 202,000 Joules to manufacture one sheet of virgin paper. Even to recycle that sheet takes 114,000 Joules. To re-image every pixel on Xerox erasable paper takes only about 200 Joules, so every re-use can save an enormous amount of energy. At 30 to 100 re-uses per sheet this amounts to a very large savings in energy. Currently there are about 2.5 trillion pages printed worldwide.
The experimental erasable paper system is still a laboratory demonstration, but it exemplifies how Xerox is applying innovative thinking in the area of the environment. And it complements the recently announced High Yield Business Paper, a first-of-its-kind paper for digital printing that uses half as many trees as traditional paper, while lowering the cost to mail printed material.
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