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A New Invention Transforms Automobile Waste into Ink

Curators’ Corner

A New Invention Transforms Automobile Waste into Ink

If you use some form of ink in your daily life, hold on to your seat because you may be able to extract it directly from your car’s tailpipe in the very near future. Thanks to one MIT grad, Anirudh Sharma, exhaust from vehicles can now be transformed into a valuable resource instead of a harmful pollutant.

As car exhaust emits greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carcinogens, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and tiny particles of metal and soot into the air, it is no wonder that automobiles are responsible for more than half of the air pollution in the nation, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Growing up in Delhi, Sharma grew accustomed to the coat of soot his clothing would accumulate throughout the day, and while studying at the MIT Media Lab, he wondered if this carbon-rich waste could be put to better use.

With partner Nikhil Kaushik, Sharma co-founded Graviky Labs and developed a soot trap, Kaalink, named after the Hindi word for black, which fits over the exhaust pipes of most cars and diesel trucks.

“Each one can collect up to 95 percent of the pollutants emitted from a tailpipe including lung-punishing particulates,” Sharma told WIRED. “One Kaalink can collect enough carbon to produce one fluid ounce of ink, enough to fill a pen, in about 45 minutes.”

Once the soot is collected, it undergoes a purification process to remove metals and carcinogens before being blended with oils to create several types of inks and paints, including printer ink and spray paint. As reported by CNN, “In a recent partnership with Tiger Beer, Graviky Labs tested its soot-based product in Hong Kong – which is known for its high pollution – and put it in the hands of local artists.” These artists were then invited to paint murals with the ink in the Sheung Wan district.

Not only a potential saving grace for environmentally minded artists, Kaalink has the potential for a real and lasting impact.

“Air pollution is responsible for 1.6 million deaths in China each year, according to a new study from nonprofit Berkeley Earth,” Discovery reported. “And although still in the developing stages and planning for growth, Graviky Labs is looking to combat the issues of industrial pollution by scaling Kaalink to collect soot from chimneys, while aiming to alleviate forms of asthma, respiratory problems, and pre-mature deaths linked to particle exposure in the long term.”

“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value,” Graviky Labs quotes R. Buckminster Fuller on their website. As an eco-focused company, Duggal applauds the innovative efforts of Graviky Labs.