Algae-based Time Lapse Ink

Living Ink is an algae-based, environmentally friendly ink alternative you can use to write or sketch a story or image that transforms over time as the contained algae grows.

This biobased ”time lapse’ ink was created by Scott Fulbright and fellow scientist Steve Albers. They first discovered the transformational potential of algae ink back in 2012 when they were searching for an alternative to traditional inks – which are made from petroleum and contain toxic heavy metals. They were experimenting with algae inks when something unusual happened: the algae ink changed from one day to the next. They soon realised that this was because the ink was growing via the process of photosynthesis when exposed to light. And so the concept for Living Ink emerged.

Living Ink pens write like any other pen. You first draw or write what you want. The ink is initially invisible. After a couple days of exposure to light however, the ink begin to grow as the algae cells multiply exponentially through a process of photosynthesis.  Your initial image eventually emerges in a vibrant green colour. For now Living Ink is available only in a green colour, but algae also naturally comes in cyan, magenta and black so the Living Ink team hopes to expand the ‘natural palette’ of their product.

Algae is a great alternative to conventional ink because it grows very quickly with few resources. Although the ink currently fades naturally over time after when exposed to daylight, researchers are developing a coating that can protect the pigment.

The ink is currently available via their Kickstarter campaign.