Printing…Without Ink and Chemicals

dotgainDespite a bevy of wonderful paper printing innovations, the printing process itself hasn’t changed all that drastically in the last 400 years. No matter what process you use, you’re still limited by the ravages of time that will fade your work over the long haul. And however conscientious the printer, the chemicals involved in most processes dent whatever eco-credentials you claim.

However, an emerging paper technology dubbed “physical color” promises to allow you to plant a color image on a page without the use of inks, dyes or chemicals. Professor Jay Guo, a computer science and electrical engineering professor at the University of Michigan, says his process uses precise grooves embossed into the paper to create color, according to a Michigan Daily piece.

Rather than using ink molecules on a page to absorb light, this new “structural color” process uses nanocavities pitted in the paper itself to trap light at specific depths that produce the desired color wavelength: Think of the colors on a butterfly wing.

Though the technology’s been in development for several years, Guo’s lab recently surmounted its greatest obstacle: keeping the color consistent regardless of what angle you view the paper at.


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