Imagine you could capture car exhaust and harness it for good. Bangalore-based start-up Graviky Labs have come up with a process to turn polluted air from motorized vehicles into real ink. Now, street artists around the world are using the black substance to create murals to raise awareness for the quality of the air we breathe.

In times of global mass urbanization, cities are increasingly burdened with air pollution. But these dark smog clouds come with a silver lining – the poor air quality is giving rise to a gust of creative ingenuity to tackle the problem. As many governments fail to come up with timely solutions, artists, designers, and engineers across the world help to plug the gap.

Graviky Labs are tackling the problem with ingenuity. From their homebase in India, where 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are located, the company deliver a unique idea to address the country-wide impurification: transforming exhaust from motorized vehicles into ink.

A new product to fight pollution

The purpose of Graviky Labs, according to co-founder and Business Development Director Nikhil Kaushik, is to simultaneously create a solution to air pollution while also raising awareness of the problem. Kaushik and his colleagues have spent the last few years developing and patenting “Kaalink technology,” a super-efficient exhaust filter that can be retrofitted to the tailpipes of cars, boats and chimneys to collect 95% of their emissions and thus “capture air pollution before it enters the environment,” says Kaushik. The emitted carbon is collected, brought to the lab, and turned into ink – officially named Air-Ink. Like any other type of ink, Air-Ink can be used for a huge array of consumer products, from markers to spray paints to printer cartridges.

various bottles with Air Ink in them
A batch of ink from emission particles.

From exhaust to ink

Black inks usually require the consumption of fossil fuels to be produced. What makes Air-Ink stand out is that it recycles the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels that have already been used. Graviky Labs claims that one marker contains the exhaust emitted by a standard diesel-powered car during a 45-minute drive. Pretty impressive. It’s even more astonishing to find out that Graviky, in its short life and, according to their own statements, has already cleaned over 1.6 trillion litres of air resulting in 770 litres of Air-Ink.

the various products offered by Graviky Labs
Graviky Labs offers a range of products featuring their ink.
six samples of emission particles
Samples of emission particles.

Raising awareness around the world

A highly successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter helped get the project off the ground and running, with pledgers receiving sets of Air-Ink products relative to the size of their donation. The campaign generated attention from all over the world. Kaushik attributes Graviky Labs’ success to “its ability to empower individuals to address their carbon footprint.” Apparently, the company’s unique approach has struck a chord with people across the world.

person is pouring ink from the motor into a small glass jar
A Kickstarter campaign helped the project grow.

Less pollution, more art

Graviky Labs collaborated with a Singapore beverage brand to create a campaign in which the Kaalink technology is used to capture exhaust from beverage delivery trucks. Illustrators across the world were commissioned to make artworks using Air-Ink products and thus address the quality of the air we breathe. Street artist Buff Monster created a beautiful black-and-white drawing on a Manhattan sidewalk titled “This art is painted with air pollution.”

So, keep your eyes open as you marvel at the street art in your city. Some of the tags, calligraphy, and graffiti may be more than just ink on the wall.

Find out more about Graviky Labs on their website. 

woman kneeling on the floor with several ink paintings
Artists soon got on board, using the ink.