Engineering a New Generation of Tattoos

Flash back one year ago.  Six very happy NYU students won the grand prize of $75,000 in the Entrepreneurs Challenge, held by Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, for Ephemeral, a clever temporary tattoo ink system.

Traditional tattoos last forever because the ink is made of very large molecules. Macrophages, the cells your immune system uses to get rid of stuff like bacteria, just can’t break down the huge dye molecules.

Ephemeral uses a different approach. Lam, another of Ephemeral’s co-founders and the company’s Senior R&D Researcher, said that each dye molecule in their ink is small but it’s encased in a special capsule.

“The reason it’s encapsulated is so that it stays in the skin, so the macrophages can’t eat it up,” Lam said.

These capsules protect the ink from your immune system, but they also can easily be dissolved by a removal solution that Ephemeral has developed. If you decided you no longer want an Ephemeral tattoo, an artist would simply retrace the design with a tattoo gun loaded with the removal solution.

The Ephemeral team included Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering students: Jason Candreva (Ph.D.), Brennal Pierre (Ph.D.), Vandan Shah (Ph.D.), Anthony Lam (B.S.), and Seung Shin (B.S.) and Joshua Sakhai (B.S.), a Stern student majoring in Math, Finance, and Computer Science.

ephemeral(Photo: ©Ephemeral)

Read more about the students and their start up Ephemeral here: