Air pollution is the single biggest health risk facing urbanites. Paris is experiencing the worst pollution in a decade, and Beijing has lately been crippled by smog. But one startup is taking a novel approach to cleaning up the air, filtering the fine black soot from car exhaust and turning it into a line of artist-quality inks and paints called Air Ink.
The company, Graviky Labs, started its life as an MIT Media Lab spin-off dreamed up by Anirudh Sharma, then a computer engineering PhD student visiting his home in Mumbai. Sharma noticed the mucky exhaust emitted by a passing bus, and soon teamed up with partners Nitesh Kadyan and Nikhil Kaushik to create the Kaalink, a small, cylindrical device retrofitted to exhaust pipes to capture soot particles before they’re released into the air.
But what to do with the fine black powder they collected? Turn it into ink, of course. The soot is first purified of metal and glass particles and then mixed with vegetable oil to create inks ranging from pen ink to markers to outdoor paint. The company’s website claims that it’s already prevented the pollution of 1.6 trillion liters of air.
And this week, Graviky launched a Kickstarter campaign to scale up their production process, and supporters in the U.S. can now purchase Air Inks for the first time.