A mural painted with Air-Ink. Graviky Labs

This Start-Up Has Figured Out How to Turn Diesel Pollution Into Art

By Clara Chaisson

Air pollution isn't pretty. Worldwide, it's linked to stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems, low birth weight and millions of premature deaths annually.

In the world's most polluted cities, the particles can be so dense that they obscure the sky and stain everything from clothes to windowpanes.

Graviky Labs, an India-based start-up that emerged from the MIT Media Lab, is taking a lemons-to-lemonade approach to soot. The company transforms the deadly particulate matter into art supplies.

The process kicks off with a specially designed contraption called KAALINK that can capture up to 95 percent of particulate emissions. Graviky retrofits each unit to diesel generators, trucks and cars, then collects the soot and purifies it into a carbon-based pigment by removing heavy metals and carcinogens. Finally, the carbon pigment is chemically processed to bind it into inks and paints, known as Air-Ink.

Graviky created a special contraption called KAALINK that captures up to 95 percent of particulate emissions from a vehicle.Graviky Labs

The idea first came to company cofounder Anirudh Sharma back in 2013, when he traveled to India, home to 10 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. After several years of testing the technology and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Graviky shipped its first products this past summer.

Artists have already been busy putting Air-Ink to the test, including through a partnership with Tiger Beer. The Asian lager company invited street artists in Hong Kong to experiment with the repurposed pollution. "At the beginning, I thought, 'It's just another gimmick,'" Kristopher Ho, a Hong Kong–based artist and early Air-Ink tester, told MIT. "But after I tried the markers, I realized they are actually pretty good."

A mural in New York City, painted with Air-Ink.Graviky Labs

Graviky makes the environmental connection of its inks explicit, calculating just how much pollution went into each marker. The smallest, a 0.7 millimeter round tip, contains about 40 minutes' worth of diesel car pollution, while a 50 millimeter wide tip contains about 130 minutes' worth.

Overall, so far, the technology has captured some 1.6 billion micrograms of particulate matter—or, put another way, cleaned 1.6 trillion liters of air. It's a small—albeit impressive—start, but Sharma envisions scaling up to outfit entire truck and taxi fleets with the technology.

For now, Graviky is removing something harmful and putting more art into the world. And that's a beautiful thing.

Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.

Show Comments ()

Silver Nanoparticles in Clothing Wash Out, May Be Toxic

By Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz

Humans have known since ancient times that silver kills or stops the growth of many microorganisms. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used silver preparations for treating ulcers and healing wounds. Until the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) was a mainstay for treating burns, infected wounds and ulcers. Silver is still used today in wound dressings, in creams and as a coating on medical devices.

Keep reading... Show less
4.4 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided in Kolkata if emissions are reduced swiftly this century. M M / CC BY-SA 2.0

Study Finds Timely Emissions Reductions Could Prevent 153 Million Air Pollution Deaths This Century

One of the roadblocks to swift action on climate change is the human brain's tendency to focus on threats and stimuli that are an obvious and noticeable part of their everyday lives, rather than an abstract and future problem, as Amit Dhir explained in The Decision Lab.

Now, a study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions would also reduce the air pollution that is already a major urban killer, thereby saving millions of lives within the next 40 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Lands threatened by BLM's March 2018 sale include Hatch Point. Neal Clark / SUWA

Trump Administration Sells Oil and Gas Leases Near Utah National Monuments

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Keep reading... Show less
Katharine Hayhoe talks climate communication hacks at the Natural Products Expo West Convention. Climate Collaborative

Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change

By Katie O'Reilly

Katharine Hayhoe isn't your typical atmospheric scientist. Throughout her career, the evangelical Christian and daughter of missionaries has had to convince many (including her pastor husband) that science and religion need not be at odds when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe, who directs Texas Tech's University's Climate Science Center, is CEO of ATMOS Research, a scientific consulting company, and produces the PBS Kids' web series Global Weirding, rose to national prominence in early 2012 after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment. The reason? Hayhoe's arguments affirmed that climate change was no liberal hoax. The Toronto native attracted the fury of Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged his listeners to harass her.

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Tide NA / Twitter

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest Grows: Arrests Include a Greenpeace Founder, Juno-Nominated Grandfather

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

Keep reading... Show less

The Grapes of Trash

By Marlene Cimons

German monk and theologian Martin Luther probably said it best: "Beer is made by men, wine by God." It's true—the world loves its wine. Americans, in fact, downed close to a billion gallons of it in 2016. But winemakers create a lot of waste when they produce all that vino, most of it in seeds, stalks and skins.

Keep reading... Show less

Why Mike Pompeo Could Be Even Worse for the Environment Than Rex Tillerson

By Kelle Louaillier

As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was one of the most blatant revolving-door cases in the Trump administration and a clear sign that Trump's government was of, by and for the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake: Mike Pompeo could be far worse.

Keep reading... Show less
Sudan, the world's last male northern white rhino. Ol Pejeta Conservancy

World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies

The world's last male northern white rhino has died, leaving only two females left to save the subspecies from extinction, the wildlife conservancy taking care of him announced Tuesday.

The 45-year-old rhinoceros, named Sudan, was euthanized Monday at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!