(NEWSER) – Digital revolution or no, some 90% of business information continues to be stored on paper, surveys suggest—and most of that paper is used just once. But scientists in California are hoping to change that with a new kind of paper that can be erased even after it’s been printed on. Afterward, it can be reused 20 times with no significant decline in quality, Phys.org reports. What’s more, “this rewritable paper does not require additional inks for printing, making it both economically and environmentally viable,” says a researcher. Instead of ink being used to create words and images, the new printing process works in what you might call the opposite way.
The “paper” (actually a film made of glass or plastic, Engadget reports, though a paper version is in the works) comes in red, blue, and green, and the printing process bleaches it where text doesn’t appear, instead of adding ink where it does. Exposure to oxygen eventually “erases” the text by returning the bleached sections to their original color, but not before the paper has served a purpose: “The printed letters remain legible with high resolution at ambient conditions for more than three days—long enough for practical applications such as reading newspapers,” the researcher notes. Heating can speed up the erasing process to as little as 10 minutes. Experts are working on increasing the number of uses to 100—good news for North America, which uses about 500 pounds of paper per capita yearly, UPI reports. (Another unusual paper technology: mosquito-repellant newspaper.)