BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
Dangerous as it is, car exhaust doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But one MIT engineer, Anirudh Sharma, is making the best of it with a new invention called the Kaalink, which gets its name from the Hindi word for ‘black’ and the English word ‘ink.’ The device attaches to the exhaust pipes on vehicles and diesel generators and converts pollutants into a powder that can be turned into several types of black ink, branded as Air Ink.
The idea came from Sharma’s experience growing up in Delhi, where the pollution was bad enough to colour his clothing. According to Wired, when he returned to India later on in his life he “wondered, can we use pollution as a source of pigmentation?” It turns out we can, and the Graviky Labs, the group behind the Kaalink, is making it happen.
By absorbing 95% of the pollutants that pass through it, including harmful particulate matter pollution, which can get into our lungs and even bloodstream, the Kaalink could have a huge impact on air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “over half the pollutants in America’s air come from ‘mobile sources’ of air pollution. These mobile sources include cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, scooters, off road construction equipment, marine engines, generators, and small engines and equipment.” That means there is a massive amount of vehicle-generated pollution that the Kaalink could largely neutralize, while other inks are made by burning fossil fuels specifically for the carbon.
Although Sharma doesn’t expect to eliminate all the world’s pollution, he says that “even if just 15 percent of the world’s black ink supply is replaced with Air Ink, we could end up sequestering a lot of air pollution.” Even that may be a tall order, but so far the 75 Kaalinks they’ve installed have captured 220 pounds of particulate pollution, which makes about 250 gallons of ink. According to the website for Graviky Labs, this translates into 1.6 trillion liters of air cleaned – that’s 1.6 cubic kilometres of air. Given that the 75 Kaalinks have attained these results in such a short time, a wide-scale implementation could have a huge impact.
Graviky knows this, which is why they are currently planning to distribute Kaalinks to taxis and buses. Since these vehicles tend to go all day, they are some of the most important ones to target to reduce pollution on a larger scale. The fact that they tend to be part of fleets could also make it easier to collect the processed pollution in large quantities to make the Air Ink.
Although it’s still hard to say how far the Kaalink and Air Ink will go, but Graviky Labs seems determined to scale up their operations and make a mark on the world, and it should certainly be possible if they can get more people and companies on board.
In the meantime, Graviky is running a Kickstarter for Air Ink, which exceeded its goal within the first week and will be open until March 9th. The funds will go towards refining the Kaalink and scaling up their production.
All images courtesy of Graviky Labs.