The carbon found in charcoal is known to produce a black pigment, but so too does the carbon found in pollution from car exhausts and generators – it is this pollution that is now being captured and turned into ink. Company Graviky is using a device known as a Kaalink to capture carbon emissions from vehicles and chimneys before they enter the atmosphere. In cars, the Kaalink goes over the exhaust pipe. The technology then imparts a positive electrostatic charge on particles leaving the pipe, which are then drawn into a negatively charged chamber. Each Kaalink collects up to 95% of the pollutants emitted from the exhaust, including tiny particles that are bad for the lungs. And this is enough carbon to produce one fluid ounce of ink, filling a pen in about 45 minutes. Chemists then strip the material of heavy metals and dust, leaving only a carbon-rich soot, which is then ground into an ultrafine powder and combined with solvents and oils to produce five grades of ink for a variety of applications, from screen printing to oil painting.

How they’re disrupting

The technology has cleaned 1.6 trillion litres of air so far, but it is still in its infancy. Once scaled up and fitted to bus and taxi fleets, the potential to reduce air pollution (and supply ink in the process) is impressive.

Disruption potential

Up to 60μg per cubic meter is recommended for breathable air quality, but most cities worldwide surpass this level. Poor air leads to poor health and impacts local economies. This innovative solution has the potential to not just rid the air of pollutants but to transform them into something useful, whilst reducing costs to health and local economies.

Investments and future

Graviky has received close to $120,000 in seed funding to date. It has been raising money on Kickstarter for its Air Ink markers and inks. It plans to distribute Kaalinks to bus and taxi fleets in the future so they can maximise the amount of carbon being captured.