Graviky Air-Ink

A startup in India is capturing the black particles that float in air pollution and turning them into ink.

Anirudh Sharma was at a conference in India when he noticed black particles accumulating on his white shirt. The specks settling on him were from pollution in the surrounding air.

Byproducts from burning fossil fuels such as gasoline and coal are causing health problems and climate effects around the world, especially in India’s growing cities. In that moment a few years ago, though, Sharma saw the pollution particles as something simpler: A coloring agent.

He went back to MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was a graduate student focused on augmented reality, and began working on an idea to turn carbon pollution into ink. Using candle soot to start, he came up with a prototype. After finishing his master’s degree, he went back to India and in 2016 co-founded a collaborative called Graviky Labs to continue working on Air-Ink and other ideas.

They developed a device that can be fitted onto the exhaust pipe of a car or portable generator and collected the soot that forms from burning diesel fuel. By mixing the fine black powder with solvents, they produced ink that then went into bottles and markers.

Kaushik says Air-Ink has a dual benefit: “It’s not just that we’re recycling that material into inks. What we are also doing is replacing the carbon black that otherwise would have been used to make black inks.” Manufacturers typically use the soot known as carbon black in rubber, ink, paints, and carbon paper.

After posting their endeavor on Kickstarter earlier this year, the team brought in $41,000—nearly three times the donations they sought to start producing Air-Ink in larger quantities. Through a sponsorship from a beer company, they’d already begun distributing the ink to artists, who created public pieces in London, Singapore, and other cities.

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Thanks again to @mchllsong for the share!

(Photo Credit: Graviky Labs)