Researchers at Italy's Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), home of the iCub, have created a way of giving extra properties to paper, including magnetism, waterproofing, fluorescence, and even the ability to clean itself and fight bacteria. However, despite these fundamental changes, it still looks and behaves like ordinary paper, and can be printed upon in the same way. The work centers around combining liquefied cellulose molecules (monomers) from wood or other plant material with the nanoparticles. These entirely coat the momomer fibers and create a polymer solution, which can be applied to any non-woven material like paper or fabric by rolling, dipping, or spray-coating.

The physical effect on the paper depends on the nanoparticles used — add iron oxide and the polymer solution will become magnetic, while silver nanoparticles will cause the fibers to become antibiotic. Dr. Roberto Cingolani, the leader of the team behind this research, told Forbes that he sees all number of possibilites for the creation. He sees a major role for antibacterial paper in healthcare and the food industry, magnetic and fluorescent in official documents and money, and waterproof paper in protecting significant documents.