India’s dirty secret has a silver lining: The air pollution that is affecting millions of people in the country’s traffic-jammed cities can be turned into creative human expression with the help of a clever invention.
A team of four young scientists have developed a special device that collects carbon soot from engine exhaust. They then turn the collected particulate matter into different kinds of ink and paint, which they named AIR-INK.
One of their ink-filled pens, for example, can be filled with the soot collected from only 45 minutes of driving in Delhi. Imagine the mind-boggling numbers of cartridges that could be filled if only a fraction of the 9 million cars on the road of Delhi would use the device.
Earlier this year, the entrepreneurs took their idea to the global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise funds for the further development of their idea. Their funding period ran 30 days from February 7 until March 9, and their goal was to raise $14,000.
Potential backers loved their product, and Graviky Labs ended up with $41,076 of pledged funds and tons of positive feedback. Many backers commented on the fact that their own cities could use the devices to combat air pollution in a meaningful way.
How the AIR-INK became reality
According to the information on the Kickstarter site, it all started as an experiment at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. The initial idea was to make a handheld printer that uses candle soot, and the rough prototype was met with enthusiasm from environmentalists and artists alike. Since 2014, they have been working on ways to harvest pollution from engines and other sources in India, and found they could make a real impact.
Graviky Labs includes Anirudh Sharma, Nikhil Kaushik, Nisheeth Singh and Nitesh Kadyan. Their post tailpipe retrofit device KAALINK incorporates filters, sensors, and a capture unit and uses electrostatic filtration, depth filtration as well as wall flow filtration to collect the right type of pollution from automobile exhaust pipes.
In the lab, the team will purify the collected pollution to remove toxins such as re-entrant dust, heavy metals, oil, carcinogens, VOCs and more. The remaining soot is then ground to a consistent particle size so that the pigment will be smooth. Their initial product line includes round tip pens, chisel tip markers and screen printing ink.
Environmentalists love the fact that no fossil fuels have to be burned deliberately to make carbon soot for ink, but that the process uses the fossil fuels already being burned in cars, thereby removing air pollution from the streets and turning it into something useful.
But is it safe? While they don’t recommend ingesting their ink, the entrepreneurs say their inks and paints are as safe as any on the market.