Researchers from Shandong University in China have registered a breakthrough resulting in a significant reduction of paper wastage across the world. Their eco-friendly technique creates a flexible rewritable material that does not require ink, and is pretty low-cost to use.

Even in the present digital boom, a significant population relies on ink and paper to communicate or visualise, and most of the paper waste ends up in landfills or recycling units. To reduce this waste, the scientists Ting Wang and Dairong Chen along with their colleagues created a new material out of tungsten oxide and a common polymer used in medicines and food.

The United States has been making constant efforts to reduce paper wastage by increasing their recycling plants. As per the Environmental Protection Agency, paper is the most recovered material for recycling than any other materials combined. This recycling helps in saving energy, water landfill space and toxic gas emissions. Much more waste could be avoided if consumers reused paper several times before finally disposing them off to trash or recycling units.

Until now, the alternatives proposed were made with toxic or expensive organic dyes, and the researchers wanted to develop a better solution. They created a film by mixing low-toxicity tungsten oxide with polyvinyl pyrrolidone. In order to “print” on it, they exposed the media to UV light for a little over 30 seconds, where it changed from white to dark blue. To create pictures or words, a stencil can be used to make sure that only the area exposed to the ultra-violet light turns blue. To erase the words, one just had to keep the material in ambient conditions for a day or two. To expedite the erasing process, the researchers added heat to make the color disappear in 30 minutes. Adding a small amount of polyacrylonitrile to the material could make the design last for up to ten days. After repeated testing it was observed that the material could be printed on and erased forty times before the quality of the material started to go down.