A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge claim to have invented a new method to remove ink from printed paper, using lasers. The method, once commercialized, could be more cost-effective than recycling, and let home and office users re-use paper directly.
Using short bursts of laser light, the ink gets vapourised, without damaging the paper. Filters would be put into place in the printer to capture the vapourised ink.
The team of researchers, led by Dr. Julian Allwood, claim that visible green light lasers are best suited for the work, though ultraviolet and infrared lasers did the job also.
While for now, it would take roughly 19,000 pounds to construct a prototype “unprinter”, the researchers are confident the process can be commercialized, and fitted as an option for regular printers.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Dr. Allwood said: "The process works on a wide range of toners. It does not damage the paper so the feasibility for reusing paper in the office is there."
Apart from reducing the number of trees cut-down, the researchers believe that they would help reduce the paper cost for offices and homes, require less chemicals than recycling, as well as decreasing carbon emissions by up to 79%.