New Technique Removes Ink From Paper
March 16, 2012

New Technique Removes Ink From Paper

Researchers from Cambridge University have successfully removed toner-print from paper, opening up the opportunity to save trees.

The team was able to remove toner-print from scrap paper effectively without causing significant paper damage by employing a variety of lasers.

This technique will allow paper to be reused, without be discarded, shredded or sent to a recycling plant.

“What we need to do now is find someone to build a prototype," Dr Julian M. Allwood, leader of the Low Carbon Materials Processing Group, said in a press release. "Thanks to low-energy laser scanners and laser-jet printers, the feasibility for reusing paper in the office is there.”

According to the researchers, this discovery may help reduce the use of trees from the paper, saving an additional 50 to 80 percent in carbon emissions over recycling.

The action of removing toner with a laser would remove four steps from the paper production cycle: forestry, pulping, paper making and disposal by incineration or landfill.

“Material recovery through reusing eliminates the forestry step from the life cycle of paper and eradicates emissions arising from paper incineration or decomposition in landfill," Allwood said in the press release.

They used 10 lasers with different ranges of strength and pulse duration during the study.

The lasers spanned the ultraviolet, visible and infrared spectrum.  They used a standard Canon copy paper with HP Laserjet black toner during the study.

Once the paper was exposed to the laser, the samples were then analyzed under a scanning electron microscope and subjected to color, mechanical and chemical analyzes.

The study predicts that the emissions produced by the pulp and paper recycling industry could be at least halved as a result of paper reuse.

“This could represent a significant contribution towards the cause of reducing climate change emissions from paper manufacturing” Allwood said.