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Algae printing ink has safety and sustainability benefits

By Scott Jenkins |

Scientists at Living Ink Technologies (Denver, Colo.; www.livinginktechnologies.com) have developed biodegradeable printing ink made from natural cyanobacteria and algae as a sustainable and non-toxic alternative to conventional petroleum-derived printing inks. Living Ink’s method involves using sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow a variety of algae and cyanobacteria species that are colored by pigmented molecules they produce. For example, green ink comes from chlorophyll produced by the cells, while other strains result in red, yellow and orange inks. Living Ink is also working on a genetically engineered algae strain that can be used for black-colored ink. To make the inks, algae is grown in controlled containers, then concentrated in a harvesting step (photos). Other plant-based materials are added to the cells to complete the ink formulations, which can then be printed onto paper, cardboard and cotton textiles using conventional printers. The ink production process is low-cost and simple, because Living Ink uses the whole cell for the ink, rather than extracting pigments from the cells with downstream processing steps, explains Scott Fulbright, the company’s co-founder and CEO. For the ink strains, “We needed to find…
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