Living in the big city, every day, we expose our lungs to harmful pollutants as part of them come from the vehicles that surround us. What if we could take these harmful emissions from cars and use them for something without letting them escape into the atmosphere? This same thought seemed to have occurred to Delhi’s Anirudh Sharma, as he noticed that every time he came home his clothes were covered in a dark soot that clung to the fabric like a coat of paint. At MIT Media labs he worked on a device that uses static electricity to capture the soot from a candle. The important correlation came about when he realised that the chemical being released was none other than Carbon Black, the pigment used in making ink. “I wondered, can we use pollution as a source of pigmentation?” he said to wired.com.
The next step was using the pigment that he collected from the candle, mixing it with rubbing alcohol and oil to create a thick almost permanent ink. The ink even worked in his inkjet cartridge, meaning that its constitution was almost identical to factory produced an ink that is made by burning fossil bi-products. He had the theory bang on, the problem until then was the fact that his home-made soot collection device wasn’t really efficient. Meaning that he couldn’t use it to really make a difference in the world pollution problems.
This was the moment that Anirudh and Nikhil decided to co-found Graviky, which is currently on Kickstarter for AirInk marker and inks. With their forces combined, the two designed a soot trap that fits on the exhaust pipes of most cars and diesel generators. The device called the Kaalink (a play on kaala-ink) . According to the Graviky each of these mufflers can collect up to 95 per cent of the pollutants emitted from a tailpipe, including lung-punishing particulates between 2.5 and 10 micrometres in diameter. What's more is that in about 45 minutes of a normal run cycle the device can collect enough carbon to fill a pen.
The device imparts a positive electrostatic charge on particles exiting the exhaust pipes and are then drawn to the walls of the negatively charged chamber. Naturally, the company has also designed an air bypass system to allow air and water vapor to pass through, so there’s no back pressure or impact on engine performance. It only takes about two weeks for the device to fill up completely, at which point Graviky transfers the particulates into containers called carbon banks.
While this might sound like an almost needlessly complex way to make ink, Sharma says that this process is much more sustainable than producing typical black carbon ink, which relies on the burning of fossil fuels. “Even if just 15 percent of the world’s black ink supply is replaced with Air Ink, we could end up sequestering a lot of air pollution,” Sharma said to wired.com.