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Materials

Write With Light, Erase With Heat, Repeat

Researchers use redox chemistry to create a rewritable alternative to paper

by Bethany Halford
December 8, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 49

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Credit: Yin Lab/UC Riverside
Yin and coworkers used redox chemistry to quote physicist Richard Feynman on their rewritable paper alternative.
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Credit: Yin Lab/UC Riverside
Yin and coworkers used redox chemistry to quote physicist Richard Feynman on their rewritable paper alternative.

Despite the digital revolution, people still use a lot of paper. Recent international surveys suggest that businesses retain 90% of all information on paper even though that paper is discarded after a single use. Chemists at the University of California, Riverside, hope that a rewritable paper alternative they’ve developed will someday lead to smaller piles of paper. Yadong Yin and colleagues created a solid composite film upon which they can write using ultraviolet light. The writing lasts for three days, or it can be erased by heating the material (Nat. Commun. 2014, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6459). Writing and erasing on the film is accomplished via redox chemistry. In the current report, the researchers use photomasks to create dark images and letters with a colorless background. The film’s imaging layer is made of a redox dye, such as methylene blue; titanium dioxide nanocrystals, which in the presence of UV light catalyze the reduction of the dye to its colorless form; and hydroxyethyl cellulose, which slows down the oxidation of the dye molecules to their colored form. The writing and erasing process can be repeated up to 20 times without losing resolution.

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Comments
Robert Buntrock (December 12, 2014 4:45 PM)
Significantly, this is the first example I've seen of Nature's content sharing which will open up (literally) much of the content of the Nature Group journals and publications. A boon to us non-subscribers, especially those of us not affiliated with a subscribing institution or school.

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