Printer Creates Color Without Ink Using Light Manipulation

The days of running out of printer ink may just be numbered! A new “no-ink” printing method has just been developed that allows images to be printed in color by using the manipulation of light in order to create colors.

Currently, most normal color printers use various semi-transparent inks applied one on top of the other to produce colors for a printed image. Researchers at Missouri S&T had developed an inkless technique where microminiature perforations are made to a multi-layered structure using two thin films of silver separated by a film of silica only 45 nanometers thick. The top layer is a silver film just 25 nanometeres deep and this is the layer that is punctured with infinitesimal holes using a special beam of light called an ion-beam.

Holes of different diameters (from 45 to 75 nanometers) were made in this film. The difference in hole size corresponded to the desired amount of light absorption that would occur with light of different wavelengths. As a result when exposed to light this punctured film would create different colors with reflected light instead of ink. In short, the size of the holes made determined which beams of light would pass through, and what colors would be seen.

Amazingly these holes are so little that the only way you’d be able to see them with your eyes is by looking at it through an electron microscope, but they have very effectively been able to reproduce a mixture of colors from navy blue to magenta and cyan.

The developers of this amazing technology believe that this new printing process could reduce the amount of materials necessary in standard printing methods, leading to lower costs, easier recycling, and higher fidelity and stability in image reproduction. While this is most definitely a new technological process it’s sure to have an impact on printing science in the very near future as it becomes more refined.

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