News / Canada

Metro Cities: These Mumbai engineers are turning soot into ink and unleashing the art in pollution

Soot clogs the air and our lungs. But this innovative solution is turning that ugly by-product into something beautiful.

Street art made with ink that was derived from the soot pumped out by vehicles. The ink is the brainchild of Anirudh Sharma.

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Street art made with ink that was derived from the soot pumped out by vehicles. The ink is the brainchild of Anirudh Sharma.

Ink. It’s in our pens, posters and printers, its blackness defines every word we read on paper. It’s survived as the ultimate carbon-based liquid of communication since cave-times.

And now, thanks to an innovative startup in Mumbai it just might save the world. 

Here’s the big idea: Air pollution in cities comes mainly in the form of soot -- a by-product of burning fossil fuels responsible for global warming, smog, and 7.2 million deaths worldwide. But a new startup, Graviky Labs, has repurposed this pollutant into beautiful black ink.

This attachment on the exhaust pipes collects the soot.

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This attachment on the exhaust pipes collects the soot.

The idea came to Anirudh Sharma in the shirt-blackening air of his hometown of Mumbai. As a new MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) graduate, he was trained to find solutions close to the source and he wondered if black pigment could be harvested from the tailpipes of cars, trucks and motorcycles before it hit the air. So he developed a cylindrical device that fit onto exhaust pipes filtering out air pollution at its source, but he didn't stop there. Along with his business partners Nitesh Kadyan and Nikhil Kaushik he invented a process to purify soot into usable ink.

Three years, much testing, and a few investor meetings later, the trio are using the pigment to launch a line of inks, pens and graffiti markers they call Air Ink, sold through their Kickstarter and soon available in Canada.

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Each pen contains the harvest of 45-minutes worth of carbon emissions and has been tested on paper and urban walls by artist-emissaries around the world. They also plan to distribute the harvesting device to bus and taxi fleets. The idea can be evolved to use for smokestacks and cranes and, if it takes off, could make your next pen mighty indeed.

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