Photo: Zebra

They seem like a mundane piece of stationary, just one of hundreds of tools helping you to get through college, but apparently there’s still some advanced research being done in the field of highlighters, resulting in what seems to be the first markers that won’t smear notes written in pen.

If you’re in college or recently graduated, you’re probably familiar with the failings of highlighters. They work great on printed textbooks, but try to highlight something in your handwritten notes and you’ll be left with not only a smeary mess but a highlighter tip stained with ink that leaves soiled neon trails behind. It might not be your most pressing issue as you cram for exams, but it’s a problem that Zebra, a Japanese stationary brand, says it has actually managed to solve.

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Photo: Zebra

The company doesn’t go into the details of how the chemistry behind its new highlighter works—that’s most likely a closely guarded trade secret now. But it apparently involves negatively charged ions in the pen ink binding with newly added positively-charged ions in the highlighter ink to help the ballpoint pen’s markings clump and hold together. Or something.

Photo: Zebra

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Zebra claims the development of the new highlighter took three years and required the testing of over 450 prototype inks before it found the perfect no-smear recipe. And while you’d assume that Zebra would capitalize on this breakthrough by pricing its new highlighters as expensive as college textbooks are, if you’re a student in Japan you can pick one up for just 90 cents.

[Zebra via Nikkei Business Publications]