Home » Scott Fulbright: Is Algae the Ink of the Future? at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

Scott Fulbright: Is Algae the Ink of the Future? at TEDxMileHigh (Full Transcript)

So how do we turn algae into ink? We grow algae in these controlled containers. We then harvest the cells, meaning that we concentrate them down, and then we add plant-based components to make the ink formula. Then we can print on paper, cardboard, and even cotton textiles. So we’re not extracting finite, toxic materials from the earth; we’re using carbon dioxide and sunlight to literally grow our pigments for the most sustainable ink in the world. Our ink is 100% biodegradable, meaning that if you put it in your compost pile, it would degrade in a matter of days. The ink that’s on your agenda right now will never degrade.

We’re working with some of the biggest companies in the world to develop and commercialize this technology for products like packaging ink, marketing materials, and even pen ink. We’re super excited. We’ve developed a renewable, sustainable, and safe ink.

But why stop there? We developed a second ink technology where we use living algae cells as an ink that grows over time when exposed to light. It’s the world’s first time-lapse ink. I’ll show you a greeting card product that we made. On day one, there’s a picture of an owl, and it says, “Owl.” On day two, the algae cells grow, forming another owl. And on day three, another image grows, and it says, “Owl always love you.” I’ll show you that in a real-time video here. We’re going to take this ink and make products like greeting cards, promotional products, and science kits that will inspire the next generation of scientists.

We envision a world where your cereal box is covered in sustainable algae ink, and the billboard you drive by changes every day because the ink is alive. Every once and a while, I’m reminded that this idea started with a simple question of, “What is ink?” These wandering mind inventions are common in science. Velcro was invented by a Swiss engineer who went for a walk and saw a burr sticking to his pants and his dog. Penicillin was developed by a Scottish scientist who came back from vacation to find a type of fungus killing bacteria on his dirty dishes.

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So curiosity taking cues from nature have long been part of innovation. So maybe a wandering mind isn’t actually a bad thing. What if every once in a while, we let our curiosity get the best of us? What if we asked more questions about our existing conditions?

Let’s take more time to wonder, to get curious, and to let our minds wander. So I challenge you to combine your perspective with the curiosity of a two-year-old. Let your curiosity lead you down the unknown path, because you never know where it will lead you. And lastly, I believe that if we allow our curiosity to thrive, and we use nature a template, we will develop amazing innovations to overcome the sustainability challenges that we face today. Thank you very much.

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