Pollution 2.0: When pollution gives you carbon, let’s make it into products we can use!

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From a dream in the labs of MIT in Boston, to a reality on the streets of India and soon in galleries around the world, Air-Ink is one very cool invention.

The brainchild of Indian innovator, MIT graduate and founder of Graviky Labs, Anirudh Sharma, Air-Ink is ink (just like a normal pen) created using air pollution.

WHAT? HOW? On a visit to India from MIT in 2012, Anirudh noticed that the fumes blowing out from a car exhaust pipe had left a pattern of soot on a white wall. This led him to think about the growing levels of air pollution in India, and also about pigments and inks.

Black ink like the kind we use in printers or in pens is essentially made from soot and the substance is technically called ‘carbon black’ which is the powder left over when you burn coal or oil. This powder is mixed with other chemical agents to make it into a smooth ink.

Eureka! Anirudh was inspired to think that if ink can be made using carbon black or soot, there is no reason that it cannot be made using air pollution. A quote by the 20th century inventor and architect R. Buckminster Fuller saying ‘Pollution is nothing but resources we’re not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value,’ served as his motivation.

Air-INK: Air pollution consists of microscopic particles which are composed primarily of carbon, or soot, created by the incomplete burning of fuel. This is the stuff that is really bad for us to breathe and that causes a lot of health problems. Graviky Labs has found a way to harvest these particles, treat them and recycle them into a useful material – ink. This ink can then be used in pens to write with, by artists and in many other ways.

The innovation: Graviky Labs has come up with a mechanism, called KAALInk which is currently awaiting patent (final recognition by the authorities) that captures the carbon particulates from pollution by being fitted on to the exhaust pipes of cars, on machinery and even outside, to trap the particles in the atmosphere.

These particles are then put through several processes to refine them and make them safe for use by human beings before they are converted into Air-Ink.

So far, the team at Graviky Labs has harvested and recycled about 1.6 trillion litres of air pollution to create ink. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has pledged his support to Air-Ink, promising that he will use that for all his brand promotions.

Graviky Labs has also collaborated with artists around the world to create works of art, murals and street art using Air-Ink in order to build awareness and educate people about the product and its uses.

That’s cool! Are pollutants being used to create other stuff? Another artist also extracted pollutants from water to create pigments, and a device known as the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner filtered air pollution from the air in China and the waste was used to create pieces of jewellery.

There is now a permanent Air-Ink exhibit at the Museum of Writing in London.

Kudos to Anirudh and the entire Graviky Labs team for this genius invention that may just be a potential solution to the air pollution problem.


Written by: Disha Mirchandani. Disha is a former lawyer turned freelance content writer. She is a fitness enthusiast and amateur aerialist with her own fitness photo-blog as well.

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