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Intense Pulsed Light unprinting for reducing life-cycle stages in recycling of coated printing paper

Dexter, Michael, Rickman, Keri, Pan, Changqing, Chang, Chih-hung, Malhotra, Rajiv
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.232 pp. 274-284
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, color, developmental stages, environmental impact, ethanol, light, optical properties, paper, paper recycling, process monitoring, ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, waste paper, xenon
Unprinting of paper can reduce multiple life-cycle stages in the recycling of paper to yield significant environmental impact. Laser-unprinting has been demonstrated for uncoated paper but causes significant damage to coated paper. This work explores a scalable optical (non-laser) process for unprinting coated paper. Printed coated paper is exposed to pulsed broad-spectrum Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) from a xenon lamp and the toner is then removed by dabbing gently with an ethanol wipe. While black toner is easily unprinted, unprinting of colored prints (red, blue, green) is best realized by incorporating an initial overprint of black toner. An unprinting throughput on the order of mm2/s is achieved. Three distinct regimes of unprinting are identified based on the extent of toner removal and damage of the paper. The optical properties of the unprinted paper, characterized via UV–Visible spectrophotometry, are correlated to these regimes to understand the potential for in-situ optical process monitoring. Scanning Electron Micrography and Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy are performed to understand the underlying mechanisms that govern the occurrence of the different unprinting regimes. Further, the potential impact of the developed approach on recycling of paper is discussed in the context of the capabilities of current optical unprinting approaches and the potential elimination of life-cycle stages in conventional paper recycling.