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Four Indian scientists pioneer Air-Ink

October 13, 2017

(Copyright: Kickstarter)

Four young scientists from India have come up with an innovative way to benefit from air pollution – by turning it into ink.

This week Scroll revealed that the scientists have been creating Air-Ink, ink made out of air pollution, since June 2016, using “carbon emissions and soot from car exhaust pipes, chimneys and generators”.

The ink, which is a rich black colour, is produced by Bengaluru-based lab, Graviky Labs, an eco-friendly tech company that “is working towards industrialising the process of recycling air pollution emissions into pigments and ink.” Graviky was founded by Anirudh Sharma, an inventor who first came up with the idea back in 2013, along with Nikhil Kaushik and Nitesh Kadyan.

Initially Sharma and Kaushik began working together on the product, then called Kaalink, by creating a “cylindrical metal contraption that can be attached to car exhaust pipes and industrial chimneys to capture the particulate matter from vehicle and industrial emissions.”

They began field-testing their new air pollution ink in 2015, during a period of dense and troubling air pollution in Delhi, and “soon realised that 45 minutes worth of emission could yield almost 30ml of liquid ink”.

Air-Ink is made when soot “undergoes a purification process”, ridding it of both carcinogens and heavy metals, leaving behind a “purified, carbon rich pigment that can be used in printer cartridges” as well as for art supplies.

Graviky’s founders, in collaboration with their technical Development Lead, Nisheet Singh, used Kickstarter to launch a campaign in February this year to raise funds for the mass production of Air-Ink, quickly surpassing their target of $14, 000.

They have since gone on to create a number of grades of ink, with “different applications”. These include “markers with 2mm and 15mm round tips” as well as “30mm and 50mm chisel tips” and screen printing inks.

“We are currently in discussions with several organisations and governments in India as well as in other parts of the world, for large scale deployment of Kaalink,” said Kaushik. “We are also planning on working with several Indian artists and their response has been phenomenal.”

The ink’s target consumers were initially designers and street artists, and for their pilot project with Tiger Beer, the creators of Air-Ink handed out Air-Ink pens to a number of artists, including the likes of Xeme and Bao Ho, who had been commissioned to decorate the Hong Kong streets with murals.

“It seemed pretty obvious that the best people to popularise this technology would be those from the art world,” said Kaushik. “The artists have been the first ones to take Air-Ink out to the world by creating something that connects with the masses.” 

Now Graviky is also working on developing the ink for use in commercial printers. In the meantime, their Air-Ink pens are scheduled to be available for purchase online by the end of this year, priced at a similar cost to artist markers already available. “The Air-Ink markers, though made of plastic, are reusable and therefore last for a long time,” said Kaushik. “They can be refiled with our ink or, for that matter, any other ink too. This helps us in making the whole process significantly carbon negative.”

So far, Graviky has produced more than a thousand litres of ink, and claims to have purified “more than 1.6 trillion litres of air in the process”, with its own waste being “sorted and recycled by waste management companies”; future plans are in order to test Kaalink on the New Delhi streets.





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