In 2012, Anirudh Sharma took a picture of a diesel generator on a student trip to India. Creating a dark stain against the white wall, then got him thinking about ways to capture the particles produced by the stain, and low and behold years later, he is now the co-founder of Graviky Labs, producer of AIR-INK.
Creating the ink
Straight after the trip, Sharma and his friends managed to gather the soot from a candle and create ink, simply by mixing vegetable oil and vodka with the ink. After mixing the solution together, they used an inkjet printer cartridge to print out words and draw, prompting Sharma to return to India to fully focus on his new product, AIR-INK.
After a year of completing his master’s degree, Sharma returned to India to build a small team and a lab in Bangalore to collect air pollution from its source. After prototyping and experimenting, Anirudh and his team managed to collect 95% of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particles from a diesel generator through a filtering device called a Kaalink. Derived from the Hindi word “kaala” meaning black, they created a steel cylinder that could be fitted with any exhaust pipe to easily collect pollution. From there, they managed to capture 45 minutes of diesel car pollution in 30 ml of AIR-INK, fitting into a small marker that produced a sharp black ink.
Spreading the word
While prototyping, the team was contacted by a huge corporation that offered to do a bigger trial with the ink by reaching out to artists. Through street art, paintings, and entire exhibitions, word eventually started spreading and eventually made the product hugely popular and well known.
Even though Sharma and his co-founder Nikhil were practically generating pollution and ink out of their own houses as the first assembly line, word eventually started spreading to even factories from in the area and around the world, who sent in huge bags of pollution just to have them recycled. From London, India, China and many more countries around the world, pollution was now being recycled into ink when it would’ve ended up in landfills and rivers otherwise.
AIR-INK is still around to this day and has become popular and well-known through its long-lasting, dark, high-quality and non-toxic pigment. Graviky Labs currently partners up with companies like MasterCard, Heineken and Dell to create clothing debit cards made out of the ink and over the last three years it’s helped prevent 6.5 million kilometers worth of driving emissions and 700 tonnes of carbon from airplanes. Though it’s not perfect and will not solve the world’s pollution problem, it’s a beginning that shows what can be done and inspires others to think about what can be done in the future.