Scientists Turn Air Pollution From Car Exhaust Into Black Ink

How’s this for upcycling? Scientists in India have found a way to turn air pollution into usable ink.

Over the last few years, an engineer named Anirudh Sharma has perfected a way of turning exhaust from diesel engines into black ink, converting engine pollution into oil-based markers, spray cans and paint. He calls his product Air-Ink and makes it with Graviky Labs, his own startup company.

To create Air-Ink, Sharma and his team created a device called the Kaalink, which attaches to a vehicle’s exhaust pipe in order to collect unburned carbon before it’s dispersed into the air. According to the Graviky Labs website, the Kaalink captures “up to 95 percent” of the air-pollution particulate generated by those engines, without causing damage to the vehicle. That collected soot is then taken from the device, ground down and mixed with solvents in order to create Air-Ink.

Graviky Labs

The ink has two eco-friendly benefits to it, according to Graviky Labs co-founder Nikhil Kaushik.

“It’s not just that we’re recycling that material into inks,” Kaushik told National Geographic last year. “What we are also doing is replacing the carbon black that otherwise would have been used to make black inks.”

Take a look at how it works in Graviky Lab’s promotional video below, which features impressive artwork created using Air-Ink.

The inks have already been distributed to artists around the world, thanks to an early collaboration Graviky Labs had with a partner, and the startup is currently in the process of fulfilling orders to its Kickstarter backers, who raised more than $31,000 to bring Air-Ink to the public.

If you’re interested in using some Air-Ink, it’s not available to the general public just yet, but Graviky Labs claims it has already cleaned more than 1.6 trillion liters of air since 2013—so one can only imagine the kind of impact it could have once Air-Ink is available en masse.

“There’s a massive potential here,” Sharma told The Guardian last year. “If each of the 20,000 black cabs in London had our product, we could clean 30 trillion liters of air a year.”

Personally, that sounds like a beautiful way to add yet another dimension to a work of art. Would you be willing to replace your black markers for ones made with air pollutants?