Smog. In some places around the world, it has become an almost daily reality. It forces people to stay indoors, endangers the lives of people with lung and breathing complications and, until recently, was a source of ugliness in the world. While no one would surely celebrate air pollution and smog, one Indian-based company is taking it and turning it into art. Or, rather, the means with which to create art.
In mid-2016, India-based company Graviky Labs announced Air Ink, their brand new invention that turns soot into paint. The idea came to Graviky Labs’ founder and self-described “perpetual inventor” Anirudh Sharma. The idea came to him while he was discussing smog with his friends, who complained it left stains on their clothes. Wondering if the stains could be a little more permanent, rather than less, he set out to turn soot into paint. His work started in a lab at MIT, but he soon went to India to complete the project.
Air Paint is created on the exhaust pipes of cars, of all places. Since cars are one of the world’s leading polluters, and a fairly steady source of carbon emissions, a special device can be hooked up to the exhaust system to capture the carbon soot. The captured soot is then purified to remove heavy metals, carcinogens, and other unnecessary elements, and then blended with other materials that turn it into a durable paint.
“The soot is blended with oils to create oil-based paint, the spray paint is packaged with compressed gas and canned,” Sharma said in an interview with CNN. “To a user, the end results are materials that function much like any other paint they use.”
The paint is stored in what Sharma calls “an Air Pen,” which holds soot from 30-40 minutes of car emissions.
Since the project was announced, Graviky Labs has partnered with Tiger Beer to test the product on the streets of Hong Kong, an area of the world that is notorious for its pollution levels. Artists were given Air Pens to create murals and other pieces of artwork around the city. Thus far, the murals, and the messages they send, have been well-received. As for Air Ink, Sharma is hopeful that it can have a positive impact on the world. “”The ink will confine the particulate matter [found] in emissions, that would have otherwise gone in our lungs,” he says. ”What we’re doing at this point is repurposing a pollutant that makes people sick, is destroying our environment, and exists all around us in our air.”
Air Ink is still a long ways off from being in your local store, or on the back of your car, but Graviky Labs is currently researching how to produce Air Pens on a larger scale. Hopefully, the art, and the paint, could help spread the word about environmentalism throughout the globe.