Today's computerized and LAN-equipped “paperless offices” are far from being paper-free but thanks to rewritable and reusable electronic paper technology developed by a Taiwanese think tank, trashed paper could finally become a thing of the past.
Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI for short), founded in 1973, claims to be a “pioneer in creating Taiwan's high tech industry” and the pioneering just keeps on coming. Hot off the presses, so to speak, is i2R e-Paper: a re-writable and re-usable electronic paper technology designed to reduce office paper consumption, paper waste, and dependence on the planet's shrinking forests.
i2R e-Paper, as ITRI calls it, is formed of several different layers collated together on a roll. The key to the concept lies in the central, micro-sized structural layer containing cholesteric liquid crystal molecules.
This active substrate is sandwiched between two electrode layers: the topmost being transparent and the lower made from silver that's just a few atoms thick.
A sheet of i2R e-Paper is just 160-µm (micrometres) thick and is relatively flexible, being able to bend to a radius of 1cm. A variety of different writing implements can be used to inscribe text and images on the paper though ITRI's development team recommends thermal writing as being ideal for future commercial and real-world usage.
“It only requires heat to store or transmit images onto the flexible display,” explained Frank Hsiu, a senior official at ITRI's Display Technology Centre. Images can be erased from the paper by running it through a modified thermal writing device similar to a fax machine. “At the moment,” said Hsiu, “research results at the laboratory show that you can write on such paper up to 260 times.”
This final step is important to the success of the concept as the vast majority of the materials and components used to create i2R e-Paper – including the silver in the lower conductive layer – can be recovered and reused.
All well and good, but there's one drawback to i2R e-Paper the clever folks at ITRI haven't considered... without rolled-up wads of wastepaper, how are we going to play trashcan basketball? (via R&D Magazine and The Myanmar Times, with thanks to Lady Bee for the tip!)