A team of researchers were trying to develop an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based ink by using algae when members discovered they had accidentally created invisible ink that changes over time.
Developed by Colorado-based startup Living Ink Technologies, the time-lapse ink is made up of algae, cyanobacteria and chlorophyll that harvests light energy and reflects green light. Using the process of cell division called binary vision, the microscopic cells that are unseen by the naked eye reproduce into a dense single mass.
This means an artist or doodler can draw something on a piece of paper and have their creation disappear and reappear days later.
Here’s how Living Ink works: First an artist draws parts of their sketch with a pencil, and then uses the “fast” ink, which comes out in pink and starts to fade. The part of the drawing that features the fast ink will grow first on the paper. Using the “slow” ink, the artist then completes the picture. The slow ink comes out in a blue color and, like the fast ink, will also disappear.
The artist then puts the card of paper into what the company calls the Greenhouse, a clear moisture and nutrient-dense material called agar that will help the ink grow. The Greenhouse then is inserted into the base (that can be used as a frame), which should then be placed in the light. Over the next day the fast ink will grow, followed by the slow ink on day three. On the fourth day, the Greenhouse can be removed from the base, and although the algae dies, it stains the paper so that the drawing will remain forever.
The startup recently launched its living algae ink in a Kickstarter campaign. Those who pledge $30 will be able to obtain the early bird special on the Living Ink set that comes with the fast and slow pens, 5 sheets of paper, the Greenhouse and instruction guide.