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Living Ink pen
Lines drawn with Living Ink’s algae pen disappear in about 10 minutes, then reappear days later. (Credit: Living Ink Technologies)

Remember invisible ink? You could write a secret message with the stuff, watch your words disappear, then make them magically reappear by holding the message over a heat source.

The basic idea goes back to ancient times, but now it’s been updated with a biotech twist. 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.

“Our mission is to displace toxic petroleum-based ink, in which our first partnership is with Aveda to make sustainable packaging ink from algae cells,” Living Ink’s co-founder and CEO, Scott Fulbright, told GeekWire in an email.

Fulbright and his fellow inventors, Steve Albers and Jeff Zdunek, are having a little fun with the invisible-ink idea. Their Kickstarter project offers an algal-based ink that’s loaded into a pen or a printer. When the ink is applied to paper, it dries to become invisible. But when the paper is placed in a clear “greenhouse” frame, the algae multiply so fast that the ink eventually reappears like the fuzz on a Chia Pet.

You can even have different parts of the picture reappear at different times, depending on the growth cycle for different strains of algae. The Kickstarter kit’s fast ink becomes visible in one to two days, while the slow ink shows up in three to four days.

Fulbright calls the stuff “the world’s first time-lapse ink using living algae.”

“Imagine receiving a greeting card in the mail that says, ‘Happy Birthday,’ and the next day a cake appears, and on the following day, candles appear on the cake and it says, ‘From Scott,'” he writes.

Living Ink quickly blew through its $15,000 goal – but there are still some rewards left for backers who pledge before next Tuesday, at levels ranging from a $25 “Mini-Edition” to the $85 “Artist Edition” to a $1,000 “Shot and a Beer” that includes a tour of the lab and a few breweries in Fort Collins, Colo. Check it out … before the opportunity disappears.

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