Living ink technologies.

Author:Peterson, Eric




Initial Lightbulb:

After working foran algae biofuels startup in Texas, Scott Fulbright decided to pursue a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at Colorado State University. "The first day of class, I met my co-founder, Steve Albers," says Fulbright. "We had the same vision, but we didn't have any product ideas at the time."

Algae is now mainly grown for biofuel and animal feed, he adds. "The hard part of the algae industry is trying to find the end-use product that's higher value than animal feed or fuel."

But Fulbright had an epiphany in summer 2013. "I was buying a greeting card for my grandma," he says. "I kind of zoned out and thought, 'Why is a greeting card $12? It's just paper and ink.'"

Soon he and Albers were working to develop an algae-based ink that would grow and change over time. "Our first product was a time-lapse ink," Fulbright says. They launched a kit for artists on Kickstarter before pivoting to the larger market for printing ink.

In a Nutshell:

Living Ink Technologies is perfecting algae-based inks for consumer packaging, paper products and other applications. The company's green ink is already available as the team works to develop black and other colors by late 2017.

"Typically, ink is petroleum-based and the colors are mined from the earth," says Fulbright. "Our pitch is we've got a biodegradable, sustainable ink product. Our ink is just algae cells and other plant-based materials. "

Many of the pigments currently used don't biodegrade at all, and the ink manufacturing process isn't eco-friendly. "One of [Hewlett-Packard's] largest costs of producing ink is that they're using so many toxic chemicals in their manufacturing process," he adds.

The company has support from Aveda, Hallmark Cards and Upslope Brewing as it hones the process...

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