“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting,” the architect, inventor, and philosopher Buckminster Fuller once said. “We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.”
Bucky’s provocation sparked MIT graduate Anirudh Sharma, and for the last three years his start-up Graviky Labs has been perfecting technology that transforms toxic air pollution to rich black pigment. After rounds of prototyping, their first “Air-Ink” products are ready for market and currently being offered on Kickstarter.
You can get Air-Ink in two forms: felt-tip pen markers ideal for calligraphy and lettering, and bottled silkscreen ink. Sharma and co-founder Nikhil Kaushik are hoping to use funds from the crowdfunding campaign to bring their invention to scale, which would hopefully lower Air-Ink’s price. Right now, one marker costs $25 and a silkscreen printing set (including t-shirt printing paraphernalia) is priced $198. Graviky says they plan to develop more artist media, such as spray paints and oil-based paints.
The raw material for Air-Ink is collected via a cylinder-shaped device attached to car mufflers, diesel generators, and factory chimneys. Their proprietary collector called “Kaalink” traps toxic carbon particles before they’re released into the atmosphere. The soot is then processed in a lab to remove heavy metals, dust particles, and carcinogens; the purified carbon is mixed with solvents to make the ink.
Hoping to appeal to environmentally minded artists (or perhaps those fuming about not being able to get Anish Kapoor’s exclusive Vantablack pigment) Graviky claims that using one fluid ounce of Air-Ink nullifies the environmental impact of driving a soot-emitting vehicle for 45 minutes. “Every stroke on paper that you make is essentially a quantification of the particulate matter that you would’ve breathed in when you’re walking outdoors,” explained Sharma in a promotional video. Air-Ink is non-toxic and as safe as any other commercial ink in the US market. (They’ve tested with users over the age of 6.)
With the support of corporate backers such as Tiger Beer, Graviky has gone on harvesting missions to smog-filled cities such as Dhaka, Bangalore and Hong Kong, recruiting volunteers who let them attach the pollution-trapping device to their exhaust pipes. The $9,200-level reward on their current Kickstarter campaign brings the Graviky team to any smoggy city where they’ll collect toxic emissions and get an artist to transform it into a work of art.