Goodbye, Ink: Chinese Chemists Invent Water-Jet Printer

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By Vittorio Hernandez | January 30, 2014 10:53 AM EST

REUTERS
Kodak printer ink cartridges are shown in this illustrative photograph taken in Encinitas, Calif., Nov. 3, 2011.

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Printer ink makers and ink refilling stations may soon have an unexpected competition from a printer which uses H20 and not ink. The technology was developed by a team of chemists from China.

What makes the technology work is the paper that was treated with an invisible dye that colours upon exposure to water and later disappears. It uses a dye compound called oxazolidine that gives a clear, blue print in less than one second upon application of water.

Within a day, the used paper fades back to white which makes it reusable.

At temperature lesser than 35 degrees Celsius, the print would fade away in 22 hours, while at higher temperature, it would fade faster. The technology is ideal for documents that are printed to be read once and then discarded.

Sean Xiao-An Zhang, the chemistry professor at China's Jilin University, who supervised the work on the water-jet printer, estimated that about 40 per cent of office prints are eventually thrown to the garbage bin after one reading.

Mr Zhang estimates that based on 50 times rewriting, the cost would be only 1 per cent of inkjet prints. Reusing the paper only 12 times would bring down the cost of one-seventeenth of the cost of inkjet print.

The technology does not require changing a printer but only replacing the ink in the cartridge with H20, using a syringe.

The team published the result of their experiment in the Nature Communications journal.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Mike Blake)
Kodak printer ink cartridges are shown in this illustrative photograph taken in Encinitas, Calif., Nov. 3, 2011.
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