MIT grad Anirudh Sharma has led his start-up company to transform a very unwanted thing into something highly useful.Philosopher, architect, and inventor Buckminster Fuller once said “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting, we allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value”, and these are the words that drove Sharma into his team’s creation.
For the last three years, Sharma and his start-up, Graviky Labs, has been developing a method to convert air pollution into workable black pigment. They have created numerous prototypes but have now created something that is as close to completion as they can get. Air-Ink is Sharma’s answer to Fuller’s provocation, and it’s currently on Kickstarter for the public to see.
The Air-Ink is available in two different forms; felt-tip markers for lettering and calligraphy, and bottled silkscreen ink for shirt or poster printing. Sharma, along with co-founder Nikhil Kaushik, aims to use the crowdfunding campaign to further scale the project. This would drastically lower the market price of the Air-Ink. As of this article, a marker costs USD 25 and a silkscreen set, including t-shirt and screen tools) is at USD 198. The start-up’s plan is to extend their reach towards other artist media, including oil-based paint and spray paint.
The pigment gathered from air pollution is collected through a cylindrical device that’s attached to diesel generators, factory chimneys, and car mufflers. These collectors, called Kaalink, seals the carbon particles inside it, not allowing them to ever reach the atmosphere. The carbon deposit is then moved into the lab and is purified to eradicate non-essential components such as heavy metals, carcinogens, and dust particles. Afterwards, this filtered material is mixed with various solvents to turn it into ink.
Graviky promises that every fluid ounce of Air-Ink used removes the harsh effects of the pollution caused by a vehicle that emits soot for 45 minutes. Their market aims to cover those environmentally cautious artists that aim to do good for our air. In the teaser video below, Sharma said that “Every stroke on paper that you make is essentially a quantification of the particulate matter that you would’ve breathed in when you’re walking outdoors,”. The video also shows some detail on how the project works and what the ink can produce. The ink, although made from air pollution, is as safe to use like other commercially available products in the US market today.