I just learned of this amazing technology today. Shift Magazine (which, incidentally, just suspended operations) had it at the bottom of their list of “10 technologies that haven’t taken off…yet”. It is the decopier – a photocopier that works in reverse to remove toner from paper. Cool, huh? The technology has existed for years apparently and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of trees by re-using paper and reducing the need for security paper shredding.
Discover Magazine gave an environmental award to the inventor of this innovation, Sushil Bhatia, president of Imagex Technologies in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1998. Here’s what they wrote:
The difficulty with copiers and laser printers, he found, is that “the toner is embedded deeply in the paper because of the heat and pressure used in the process.” Newsprint ink, by contrast, lies mostly on the surface, which is why it rubs off on your hands but makes newspapers easier to recycle. So Bhatia and a team of researchers found a chemical that sunders the bond between the toner and the paper. In demonstrations, Bhatia placed a piece of paper on a heated surface, brushed a milky liquid containing the secret chemical over the paper, and in a few seconds brushed the printing away. Imagex is now building a prototype “decopier” that, while it would look much like a photocopy machine, would work in reverse: a printed page will be fed in, and a few seconds later, out will pop a crisp, blank sheet.
By September 1997, Bhatia had figured out how to decopy paper from 15 different copiers in addition to overhead slides. He envisions his Office Paper Decopier being put to work mainly in large companies. By decopying and reusing white paper instead of throwing it away, a big office could in theory cut paper costs by 70 percent or more.