The Westlake University research team in China has found inspiration in the structural colors of insects and birds to develop a revolutionary inkless printing technology. When light hits certain ordered structures in subtle objects, it can cause reactions like refraction, diffuse reflection, and diffraction, resulting in structural colors. The team has now created a composite film from ultra-hard ceramic materials and used an ultrafast laser to fabricate micro-nano structures on its surface, enabling the production of full-color prints without any ink.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications, where the researchers detailed the development of the new inkless printing technology. The composite film’s micro-nano structures allow light to be manipulated in different ways to produce various colors, offering a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective printing solution. This innovative technique could have significant implications for the printing industry, which currently relies heavily on ink.
The research team’s inkless laser color-printing technology opens up exciting new possibilities for industrial applications. Its full-color, eco-friendly, and cost-effective properties make it a strong candidate for use in a range of fields, including packaging, textiles, and advertising. Furthermore, the technology could reduce waste and production costs, making it an ideal solution for businesses looking to improve their sustainability credentials.
Overall, the inkless printing technology developed by Chinese scientists at Westlake University is a significant advancement in the field of printing. It has the potential to revolutionize the industry, offering a more sustainable and cost-effective solution than traditional ink-based printing methods. The future of printing technology could be inkless, and China is leading the way.
The global sales of printers have reached hundreds of millions annually. However, the widely used inkjet or laser color printers require a large amount of ink or toner, which can contain harmful substances such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. Toner also releases small particles that can be harmful to the environment and human health. As a result, there is a growing demand for environmentally friendly printing technologies.
One such solution is structural color, which is generated through the reaction of light on ordered structures in subtle objects, such as the wing hues of insects and birds. Structural color is durable, high-resolution, and environmentally friendly. Therefore, it is becoming an attractive technique in many applications. However, there are some limitations in its use, such as narrow color gamut, limited materials, and easy fading.
To overcome these challenges, a Chinese research team from Westlake University has developed full-color inkless printing technology based on structural color. The team used an ultra-hard ceramic material to develop a composite film and fabricated micro-nano structures on its surface using an ultrafast laser. This method provides a new idea for the industrial application of inkless laser color-printing technology, which has the potential to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable than traditional inkjet or laser printing.
A breakthrough in the development of inkless printing technology has been made by Chinese scientists from Westlake University. They achieved this by creating a composite ceramic film that is just 110 nanometers thick. The thickness is one thousandth that of a human hair. The film has three layers, and the topmost layer is aluminum oxide.
The composite film has a gold-like titanium nitride layer as the bottom layer. This layer has a reflective function that blocks light and increases brightness. The intermediate layer is an aluminum-titanium nitride dielectric that has a high-loss property, which can regulate the absorption of natural light. When natural light is absorbed by the top layer, a transparent thin film of aluminum oxide forms, which, in combination with the aluminum-titanium nitride, regulates the natural light absorbed.
The scientists employed an ultrafast laser to create micro-nano structures on the film’s surface. These structures provide the film with the capability to produce structural colors that are environmentally friendly, have high resolution, and long durability. The technique has many applications in various industries, including hard-copy image printing, packaging, anti-counterfeiting, and biomedicine.
To achieve full-color inkless printing with high speed and resolution, the research team applied the laser to the composite ceramic film and controlled the energy or scanning speed of the laser to change the thickness of the aluminum oxide film and the aluminum-titanium nitride film. As a result, natural light formed specific reflected colors through the complex interference effect between the three layers, forming different colors.
The team used various techniques to perform a material analysis of the laser-colored areas and confirmed that the observed colors were from the laser-induced oxide layer. The technology can achieve full-color inkless printing with high speed and high resolution, presenting nearly 90 percent of the standard RGB, which is better than current mainstream laser coloring technology.
The development of this inkless printing technology presents a new idea for industrial applications, providing a solution to the environmental problems caused by inkjet or laser color printers. The ink used in these printers contains volatile harmful substances such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, while the toner releases small particles that can be absorbed by the human body, harming the environment and human health.
Structural color, on the other hand, is environmentally friendly, durable, and features high resolution, making it an attractive technique in many applications. However, there are problems in these applications, such as narrow color gamut, limited materials, and easy fading. The development of this new inkless printing technology offers a solution to these problems and presents an opportunity for further exploration and innovation.
The novel “paper” developed by the research team is a composite ceramic film that is about 110 nanometers thick, one thousandth the thickness of a human hair. It has three layers, including a bottom layer of gold-like titanium nitride that acts as a reflective layer to block light and increase brightness, an intermediate layer of high-loss aluminum-titanium nitride dielectric that can regulate the absorption of natural light, and a top layer of aluminum oxide.
When an ultrafast laser is applied to the surface of the aluminum-titanium nitride, an additional transparent thin film of aluminum oxide is formed, which regulates the natural light absorbed together with the aluminum-titanium nitride. This technology offers a promising solution for inkless printing, presenting a range of applications for different industries, and has the potential to transform the printing industry as we know it.
This breakthrough provides an alternative to traditional inkjet or laser color printing methods that require a lot of ink or toner, which can be harmful to both human health and the environment. The ink contains volatile substances such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. The toner releases small particles that can be absorbed by the human body. Therefore, the inkless printing technology is an eco-friendly, safe, and sustainable approach to printing.