Ink researchers find magic in algae


Sustainable Problem:

The majority of printing ink uses a significant amount of petroleum. Carbon black is the most common pigment used in black inks. It’s most commonly made from of the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such TAR all of which have detrimental human and environmental impacts. Thus, current ink is unsustainable, non-renewable and toxic.

Technology Summary:

Colorado-based Living Ink Technologies has created a type of ink that’s “green” in more ways than one. It’s made from algae, it’s non-toxic, and it’s produced in a way that’s environmentally sustainable.

Living Ink’s technology uses algae cells as bio pigments within ink formulations. The cells are diluted in the liquid and can’t be seen by the human eye. When the ink is exposed to sunlight and CO2 from the atmosphere, the cells multiply and become so dense that they become visible to the human eye and the writing or drawing reveals itself, its only byproducts are oxygen and clean water. Living Ink has manufactured two kinds of pens, one with ‘slow’ ink, with a lower density of cells and one with ‘fast ink’ with a higher cell density in addition to special watercolors for artists. The pens come with special paper and a closed glass frame that serves as a greenhouse. Even after the algae cells have died, the drawings remain intact.

Living Ink is the first step in weaning the world off of regular ink and moving towards a safe and renewable solution and is currently working on methods to print algae cells with traditional printers; the algae specialists are also teaming up with a company to develop sustainable packaging inks using algae cells.





  1. Investors to commercialize the technology
  2. Potential Customers (Architect/Designers/Academia/writers/officers)
  3. Businesses (producers of technology and business consumers)
  4. Suppliers of component parts

Steps in deploying this technology:

  1. Introducing this new technology via workshops, media and marketing outlets to educate potential customers about its benefits.
  2. Expand scope and application of technology to traditional printers to maximize relevancy in marketplace.
  3. Monitor the progress of this technology switch and record data on how it has reduced the environmental impact

UNI – rs3750


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