By David Z. Morris
February 12, 2017

The many rapidly-developing countries in Asia have major pollution problems, leading to millions of deaths a year. The startup Graviky Labs, based in Bangalore and Singapore, has taken a novel approach to the issue, using particulates captured from car tailpipes and industrial smokestacks to manufacture what they call Air-Ink. After working to perfect their process, they’re now offering the ink on Kickstarter in hopes of funding expansion of their recapture efforts.

The process, based on research done at MIT’s Media Lab, starts with a device that Graviky Labs calls a Kaalink. It’s a proprietary electrostatic filter that captures pollutants from vehicles or generators, reportedly without impacting engine performance. The captured soot is then processed to remove dangerous metals and carcinogens, leaving behind carbon pigment.

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Many black inks are already made using carbon black, which is mostly produced by burning heavy petroleum products. That means Graviky’s process could have a two-sided impact on pollution and greenhouse gases.

The company says that 45 minutes’ worth of captured emissions is enough to fill one of their large markers with thirty milliliters of ink—though that presumably varies, because of wide variations in tailpipe emissions between cars in the region. Emissions standards for new vehicles are tightening across Asia, though they lag behind U.S. and European standards—in the case of India, by nearly a decade.

Meanwhile, many older cars manufactured with lower or no emissions controls, such as the Maruti 800 and Hindustan Ambassador, are also still on the road there. That contributes to emissions-linked health costs that have been estimated at as much as 3% of Indian GDP.

Graviky’s ink could elegantly mitigate in that problem, generating revenue to fund retrofitting tailpipe filters onto older vehicles. Speaking to Wired, Graviky’s founders say they want to fit Kaalinks to bus and taxi fleets, which would deposit used filters into “carbon banks” for processing by the company.

Cost seems like a possible obstacle to that goal—one Air-Ink marker will set you back $25 via the company’s Kickstarter, which runs until March 9th. On the other hand, ink is already often absurdly expensive, so there may be room for Graviky’s eco-friendly process to thrive.

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