Turning air pollution into art

An MIT student is recycling air pollution to make art. His startup Graviky Labs has developed a technology that captures particle matter from diesel exhaust and turns it into inks and paints.

Soot is a global health problem. In India alone, air pollution has been linked to anywhere from 1.1 million to 1.4 million premature deaths in the past few years.

Anirudh Sharma, an MIT student and Indian national, has come up with a novel way to help solve this grave issue. His startup Graviky Labs has developed a technology that attaches to exhaust systems of diesel generator chimneys to capture particulate matter. The soot is then treated and turned into ink, called Air-Ink, for artists around the world.

One KAALINK device can stay on an exhaust system for 15 to 20 days, according to an MIT statement. Users empty the disposable cartridges at special Graviky Labs collection units, and the soot is then treated to remove heavy metals and toxins to create safe and usable Air-Ink.

So far, the KAALINK exhaust retrofit devices have captured 1.6 billion micrograms of particulate matter in India, which equates to cleaning around 1.6 trillion litres of outdoor air. The end product: 750 litres of Air-Ink for more than 1,000 artists around the world.

“Less pollution, more art. That’s what we’re going for,” Sharma says.

Graviky Lab’s network of artists agree. The startup’s Facebook page features photos of art made from Air-Ink and paint, including portraits, street murals, body art, sketches and even clothing prints made by artists from Boston to Bangalore, Hong Kong and London.

Sneha Shrestha, a Boston artist originally from Nepal, believes that Air-Ink could also be a valuable tool in raising awareness about air pollution globally.

“Air-Ink makes the concept of pollution more tangible for a wider audience,” she said. “When you can see what polluted air looks like in a tangible form, it definitely raises curiosity and start conversations about pollution.”

Adds Sharma: “Air pollution knows no borders. Our ink sends a message that pollution is one of the resources in our world that’s the hardest to capture and use. But it can be done.”


Image credit: Courtesy of Graviky Labs

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