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Turning Carbon Air Pollution into Artist Paints and Inks

Graviky Labs has designed a technology that captures air pollution and converts it into a usable ink for printing and painting.

Converting pollution into a usable art medium was an idea concepted by Graviky Labs and executed by collaborating with several designers, artists, scientists, and automobile experts. After discovering a way to capture pollution, Graviky has began repurposing it into an ink called Air-Ink. The benefits of this medium is reduced air pollution, recycling the carbon for printing, painting and art needs and realizing the soot as a viable resource with creative benefits.

It is no secret that the carbon emissions from car and truck engines contain a heavy soot content and that there are risks associated with breathing them in. Founded by MIT Media Lab researcher Anirudh Sharma, Nikhil Kaushik and Nitesh Kadyan, Graviky have been fusing technology and design to aid in tackling environmental issues. While at MIT Media, Sharma came up with the idea of capturing pollution and repurposing it to use as ink.

KAALINK attached to a tailpipe. Image courtesy of Pavithra Chowdappa | Graviky Labs

“The thought behind this is to have air pollution end up as art/illustrations/murals, than in our lungs,” Sharma tells The Creators Project. “It’s like an art movement where people want to express more about the environment safety with these inks.”

Each pen containing the Air-Ink captures approximately 40-50 mins of air pollution/PM generated by cars. Graviky recently presented Air Ink in Hong Kong in collaboration with Tiger Beer for the inaugural launch of the product. “We collaborated with Tiger Beer to pilot our inks to bring together artists and create awareness on air pollution,” says Graviky. “Our goal is to take our inks anywhere people want to use it and do our bit towards reducing pollution. By using our inks for day-to-day needs, he/she has the power to reduce our carbon-footprint,” says Sharma.

Testing in the garage. Image courtesy of Pavithra Chowdappa | Graviky Labs

In order to create the ink, pollution is filtered through a three-step process. “At first stage, we use our proprietary technology “KAALINKTM” that captures soot emitted from vehicles. KAALINK  is a contraption retrofitted to the exhaust pipe of vehicles to capture the outgoing pollutants.” Sharma says, "The unit automatically turns on when an engine is activated and gases start flowing through the exhaust. All fine particle matter is then captured within the walls of the unit. In the second stage, the soot collected by KAALINKTM undergoes various proprietary processes to remove heavy metals and carcinogens. The end product is purified carbon pigment.  In the third and final stage, the purified carbon is used to make different types of inks and paints.” Sharma continues, “Each stage has its own challenge and we are still working on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of each process to increase the impact on pollution control.”

KAALINK. Image courtesy of Graviky Labs

As an art medium, the newly launched Air-Ink is as versatile as other products on the market and can be used in a variety of ways. “Our inks are formulated to target permanency and shall have an effect similar to any other permanent marker.” Sharma explains, “There are seven different grades of Air-Ink, with different applications: Fabric, outdoor paints, art, graffiti, screen printing, etc. We process the captured pollution to remove the heavy metals and carcinogens but the inks used for art work/graffiti etc are not fit for inhalation/ingestion. This is similar for any other ink or paint.”

KAALINK attached to a motorcycle tailpipe. Image courtesy of Pavithra Chowdappa

At the present time, Air-Inks and paints are being produced in different shades of grey and pitch black, though there are other sources of pollution that Graviky plans to harvest in the near future to get other colors. Sharma explains to us, “A separate effort is being made to broaden our portfolio by adding more varieties of inks and paints. Once we add printer cartridges refills to our portfolio, we shall be able to reduce the carbon-footprint in business/offices too. We are confident on the commercial viability of our products and looking forward to commercial launch by the end of this year.”

To learn more about Air-Ink click here

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