I want to develop a set of bioengineered inks to be used with various pen types ranging from gel pens to fountain pens. As an intern at ginkgo bioworks and avid DIYbiologist, I have access to a number of bugs engineered with proteins that result in colour production. I want to make special cultures that can then be packaged as ink cartridges to be used with ordinary pens. This would allow artists and enthusiasts to draw with awesome engineered inks. The great thing about using bioengineering to produce the colour, is that you can engineer them in circuits so to create "conditional inks". For example, using a promoter activated by high temperature in front of the colour producing gene, we can create a colour that will only be expressed when the temperature reaches 35 degrees centigrade. Besides creating different conditional inks (temperature, presence of heavy metals, milk ...), I would like to use the money to make different viscosity inks. I want to make the ink using a mix of glycerol and culture media. This means that the ink itself is a food source for the engineered bacteria ensuring that they grow well on the paper. Because normal paper contains a certain amount of bleach, it could kill the bacteria when drawn on. Should that be the case, me and Mac have already used coffee filter paper and seen the success. The money would also be used to develop new types of paper, making sure that it stays cheap and DIYable.
I really want to develop this project as a DIYbiologist to be accessible by everyone. I think that if funded this project is a great segue way to teach people about the fundamentals at task: we are growing cells that produce a colour and we need them to grow.
To summarize I would like to use the grant money to create a library of inks of different colours and also some conditional(e.g: become visible in the presence of metal or milk etc.), develop different viscosity inks to suit different pen types (gel pen, fountain pen...) and finally use this project to teach people about DIY bioengineering and allow them to make their own pens.
Funded by Boston, MA (March 2010)