Imagine if instead of your car emitting fumes out of its exhaust pipe, it was emitting ink that could be bottled, sold, and put to good use. That’s exactly how Anirudh Sharma, then an MIT graduate student, saw things when, upon returning to India for a conference, he realized that the pollution in the air was so heavy that it was leaving black flecks on his white shirt.
Sharma is part of a team, along with Nikhil Kaushik and others, that founded Graviky Labs, a collaborative tech startup in India. Sharma completed his Master’s degree at MIT and with his colleagues, launched a kickstarter to fund their protype “Air-INK”— turning carbon pollution into ink using a trademarked system they named “Kaalink.”
Air pollution has become a huge problem worldwide, and been particularly problematic throughout Asia’s rapid industrialization. National Geographic reports that everyone on the initial Graviky team was from Delhi, India one of the most polluted places in the world.
Kaalink unit hooks up to a car’s exhaust pipe, or even a chimney or generator, and captures 95% of the pollution created, without creating any back pressure or damaging the device. The soot that the Kaalink unit captures includes the fine black particles, chiefly composed of carbon produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuel. By mixing the black powder with solvents, they are able to produce ink in bottles and markers—sending them to artists to create outdoor murals to raise people’s awareness about pollution—and the possibilities for combating it with technology.
Their project not only cleans the air, but also turns ink production into a recycling business, since “carbon black” is already a soot used in creating inks and rubber. They hope to expand eventually into computer printer cartridges, and to keep coming up with more ideas for cleaning up the earth, and the air—changing the concept of what “pollution” is entirely.