Can you make a physical digital book?

By | April 19, 2012

Fascinating technology. Now please put nanocircuitry and flourescent stuff that takes on a certain color when powered, connect a stack of papers with a book spine, add a USB port and some smart drivers, and give me a 'book of the future' that I can 'print' and 'reprint' by copying a file onto it.

I know tablets and kindles were supposed to be the digital version of books. But I can't flip through the pages on those devices or compare two pages side-by-side like I can with a real book – and it has a glowing, power-hungry screen. Paper books, on the other hand, are great for taking with you on a trip, and great around the house when the computer is occupied.

Reshared post from +EuroTech

The First Waterproof Paper Created by Italian Scientist
Paper is the first example, but anything can be treated in the same way.

Genova, or Genoa, as it is known in English, is well known for its nautical traditions – but now a scientist in one of its universities has come a very long way from applying tar to wooden boat’s hulls – specifically to creating a waterproof paper. Dr Roberto Cingolani, of the Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), lead the team that made the breakthrough.

As if this is not enough, waterproofing is only one of the many applications – it can also be modified in many different ways, such as being made magnetic or anti-bacterial, and all this is achieved without changing the basic structure of paper. The effect is not achieved by applying a coating (such as lamination) to the finished product, but by modifying the strands at molecular level.

Just like old-school paper, the “new” paper is still printable, can be written on and more importantly can be recycled without harming the environment. The process to modify the paper is created by making a polymeric matrix of the coating that needs to be applied from monomers (individual molecules). This can be then applied to the paper in many ways, but at no point does it become a coating of the paper itself. It is creates a soft shell around each individual fiber at a molecular level.

This means that when the paper is dipped in the material, each fibre is then coated with a different material depending on the properties required. Ferrous oxide to create a magnetic material or silver to give it anti-bacterial properties. It can be coated in a waterproofing substance to make the paper impermeable or in fluorescent molecules to make it stand out.

Cingolani said that “the antibacterial version of the paper could be used in medicinal applications or in food packaging. Fluorescent paper could be useful for security, like in the production of banknotes or the protection of documents. Waterproof paper can be used to preserve historical documents”

In theory both the applications and the uses are limitless, because the major discovery made by the Italian scientists is more about the process than about one result in particular. So this nanotechnological advance can be applied with various modifiers and on all materials that share the same properties as paper – such as textiles.

The potential for modified paper is already quite vast though, I can imagine that a waterproof paper bag would be a brilliant idea, as would an anti-bacterial wallpaper for public areas or hospitals. It is exciting to see even more real-life applications of nanotechnology come out of European institutes on a regular basis.

Would you find uses for this super-paper or do you think we should not be meddling with nature?

Author: +Richard Muscat Azzopardi

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