Device Turns Air Pollution Into Printing Ink

Air ink pen
(Image credit: Gravinky Labs)

An MIT spinoff company in India is proposing a novel solution to air pollution problems in Asia — turning vehicle exhaust into ink.

It involves attaching a device, called a Kaalink, to the business end of a standard automobile exhaust pipe. The Kaalink filters and captures unburned carbon emitted by incomplete engine combustion. The technical details of the process are secret, but officials at Gravinky Labs, a spinoff company from MIT Media Lab, said the process is largely mechanical and relatively straightforward.

"Our device is designed as a clever fusion of electronic sensors, mechanical actuators and a collection system," company co-founder Anirudh Sharma told Seeker in an email exchange from India. "It is retrofitted to the exhaust pipe of vehicles and mounts through a triangulated screw/clamp-set."

According to tests at Graviky Labs, the Kaalink device can capture up to 93 percent of the emitted pollution from standard internal combustion engines. It takes about 45 minutes of exhaust filtering to produce an ounce of ink.

But how does the captured carbon get turned into ink? Well, that's under wraps too, but Sharma said the captured carbon comes out the other end of the process as a high-quality printing ink that can be sold in both the consumer and industrial markets. The company has a new crowdfunding campaign to refine its development.

Right now, Kaalink devices have to be individually and manually installed by drivers. When the collection apparatus is full, the device can be traded in at Graviky Labs facility in India. Sharma said each unit typically collects carbon for about two weeks of city driving before it needs to be swapped out.

(Image credit: Gravinky Labs / Tiger Beer)

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To really be effective, the system needs to scaled up significantly, and supported by more processing facilities in more areas. The company's new Kickstarter campaign, launched today, is structured to provide funds for a gradual roll-out and expansion of the technology.

"At present, we are harvesting and collecting pollution on a small scale in Bengaluru, India," Sharma said. "Currently our collection mechanism involves emptying the units at our own garage."

The Air-Ink system has been in development for more than three years already. In fact, Graviky Labs recently partnered with the popular Asian brand Tiger Beer to launch a proof-of-concept awareness campaign in Hong Kong. Fine art painters and street artists were provided with Air-Ink pens, markers and spray paint, then cut loose to literally make art out of air pollution. The demo video is pretty slick, you can check it out below.

Sharma said that, down the line, the company hopes to radically expand the system, and not just for vehicles, either. Variations on the Kaalink device could potentially be attached to chimneys, smoke stacks and other industrial exhaust systems.

"At this stage, the Kaalink device is still undergoing several rounds of testing and eventual certifications," Sharma said. "We intend to deploy it on cars, trucks and chimneys of various sizes and scales, and help individuals, organizations, and governments capture their own pollution and recycle it."

Originally published on Seeker.

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