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6: Kaalink • printer ink from car exhausts

Problem:

Fossil-fuel gasoline automobile exhausts pollute and damage health in crowded cities.

Solution:

A machine called Kaalink for recycling their soot to generate ink for printers, has been invented by Anirudh Sharma of India. Between 2013 and 2015 Sharma co-led activities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab India Initiative consortium to help shape self-organized, design-led innovation in India.

During a visit to his Indian home in 2013, Sharma noticed that his friend’s clothing was stained by air pollution. After experimenting for more than a year to see whether pollution rejected by vehicles was a resource recycling idea, Sharma realised that his invention would not help India if he set up office in the US.

So, in 2013 he returned to India and, along with three researcher friends, co-founded Graviky Labs in Bengaluru. Initially when they were experimenting with a new technology, there was no set guidance available in the market.

They conducted several experiments to understand the optimum technique for harvesting pollution from fossil fuel combustion sources. By 2016, the team started to retrofit Kaalink machines to car engine exhaust pipes in Bengaluru.

They were able to capture approximately 95 % or 1.6 kg of the particulate matter pollution without inducing back-pressure. Kaalinks were manually and individually installed by drivers, and after about two weeks of city driving were traded in at a Graviky Labs.

The machines could also be fitted to motorboats and to chimneys.

Graviky then set about converting the captured raw material into a black ink they called Air-Ink. An ounce of ink (28 gm) is produced by about 45 minutes of exhaust. Sharma and his team then built a prototype to test their ink’s printability.

They assembled a Nicolas’ ink shield with Arduino interfaced with their soot-catcher pump design. This shield allowed them to connect a HP C6602 inkjet cartridge to their Arduino2015 turning it into a 96dpi print platform.

It only used 5 pins which could be jumper-selected to avoid other shields. For the project they had to widen the holes of the cartridge to let the ink out, since the size of the particles in Air-Ink is much larger than the fine industrial ink.

Conventional black ink is one of the most consumed products in the industry. Most of this printing ink is produced in factories with complex chemical procedures.

Companies such as HP/Canon make 70 % of their profits by selling these cartridges at 400% margin. Air-Ink presented a far more economic option.

In August 2016, Graviky Labs, in partnership with Tiger Beer, Heineken Global, next linked up with international artists to spread the message of environment conservation.

They collaborated with seven Hong Kong-based artists for this project, providing approximately 42 gallons (150 liters) of Air-Ink in graffiti cans.

These worked well and were used in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district for street art activation to campaign against air pollution.

They captured this moment on a video that went viral and garnered 2.5 million views within 10 days. Sharma next travelled to smog-choked cities around the world and challenged 19 street artists to create billboards and murals in Air-Ink illustrating the effects of carbon waste, starting in London, going on to Berlin, Chicago, Sydney, Singapore and Amsterdam.

Street artist Buff Monster created a beautiful black-and-white drawing on a Manhattan sidewalk titled “This art is painted with air pollution.”

Anirudh’s innovation also gained recognition from Shah Rukh Khan, an Indian actor, film producer and television personality. Referred to in the media as the “King of Bollywood” and “King Khan”, he has appeared in more than 80 Bollywood films. Khan pledged to use Air-Ink for his brand promotions.

This included 4 handmade posters of Khan posted across New Delhi and Mumbai advertising the launch of Sharma’s TED-Talks in India “Painted with Pollution.” With corporate and government partnerships, Graviky hopes to install 1,000 capture units in every constituency.

In 2019, Graviky Labs proudly made this post on their website: “(422 billion gallons (1.6 trillion liters) of air cleaned so far.”

Discover solution 7: a wearable badge that helps you figure out the cleanest and healthiest routes to work or school.

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