Air-Ink Turns Diesel Pollution into Artist Ink

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Automakers are working to make cars less polluting, but emissions are still an issue. Diesel vehicles are especially guilty of polluting our environment, so they receive extra attention from scientists and engineers trying to improve air quality. An MIT grad student developed a unique solution that captures diesel soot and turns it into ink.

While home in Mumbai, India, Anirudh Sharma was struck by the pollution generated by the city’s traffic. He wanted to do something to reduce pollution in what is the fifth most polluted city in the world, so he partnered with Nitesh Kadyan and Nikhil Kaushik to come up with the Kaalink.

It’s a small, metal cylinder that fits on vehicle exhaust pipes to collect soot before it can pollute the air. Taking it a step further, the trio created a process to refine that soot and turn it into a black, carbon-based pigment. After three years of work, they are launching a line of inks, pens, and artist paints called Air-Ink.

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The process starts with the Kaalink. It captures enough soot in 45 minutes to produce one fluid ounce of ink. The process of turning the soot into ink involves removing heavy metals and carcinogens so you have an ink that is as safe as what you’ll find from traditional production methods. Artists have been using the products as a test for the last six months without any problems.

The full line is available on Kickstarter with a pledge of $25 getting you one 2 mm marker. Higher reward levels include 50 mm markers, t-shirts, posters, and 150 ml of screen printing grade Air-Ink.

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Although there is a limited range of products now, if the Kickstarter is successful, they hope to increase the product line. Possibilities include oil based paints, fabric paints, and even outdoor paints. Unlike other Kickstarters, however, this one isn’t focused on someday mass-producing these products as its primary focus..

Instead, their goal is to use the money from the Kickstarter to scale up operations, refine the process, and capture more pollution. After all, the whole idea started as a way to improve air quality. The markers are a means of getting the money they need to continue research and they’re a good use of all that dirty soot, but their priority is reducing the impact of fossil fuels on the environment.