Air-Ink: writing with pollution

Throughout history, soot has been an important ingredient in ink, to make it black. Following this tradition, the company Graviky has developed an ink made from air pollution, in which soot is a main ingredient. Air-Ink, as the material is called, repurposes pollution and turns it into tools for art.

Over the last 150 years, mankind has depended on burning fossil fuels directly or indirectly for their energy needs. Soot is the major byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels. Research has shown that many premature deaths are directly related to soot in the environment. Particle exposure leads to around 20,000 premature deaths in America each year. Data also shows that soot annually causes almost 300,000 asthma attacks and 2 million lost workdays due to respiratory problems.

The company’s vision is to arrest the vehicular soot in a way that it doesn’t reach our lungs. The process of creating Air-Ink carefully detoxifies heavy metals and particle carcinogens from the soot or carbon. The pollutants which could have been in the lungs of millions of people are now resting as art.

Graviky developed a device to capture air pollution, called Kaalink. It is a mechatronic system, which consists of filters, sensors, and a capture unit. The filtration technologies are pipelined with each other to achieve the desired filtration granularity.

The captured pollution contains toxic impurities like re-entrant dust, heavy metals, oils, and VOCs. Before use in the ink, the pollution is purified by proprietary chemical processes, beginning with gravity-based separation for high-mass particles, to comminution and catalysed activation. Finally, the recovered soot is taken through a grinding process to bring to a consistent particle size, as good as an ink pigment.

The process of making Air-Ink not only eliminates soot from polluting the air, but it also doesn’t burn extra fossil fuels that making regular ink does.

It takes just 45 minutes worth of vehicular emissions captured by Kaalink to produce 1 fluid ounce (29.6 millilitre) of ink. Air-Ink is currently available as 2 mm, 15 mm, 30 mm and 50 mm markers, and as 150 ml (5.1 fluid ounce) of screen printing ink.

You can sponsor Graviky through their Kickstarter here.