AIR–INK®

This design file is a work in progress and was last updated on June 17, 2022. We welcome contributions, corrections, and updates. Read Collecting Design (Digitally) at M21D to learn more about our approach to collecting design.

BASIC INFO

  • Materials and methods: Carbon emissions produced from from industrial pollution

  • Carbon footprint: Strong claim to being carbon-negative  

  • Energy: More research needed on energy required for processing and distribution 

  • Labor: Graviky Lab employees, including managers, researchers, and engineers. Graviky also works directly with the employees of the factories (from undisclosed industries) where they source emissions. More research into working conditions and wage standards for direct and indirect employees needed.

  • Equality: ongoing research into company sourcing and operations

  • Access: AIR–INK® markers cost $30-39. No priceses currently available for print cartridges. More research needed into industry access to patented processes used.

  • Life-cycle assessment: More research needs to be done into what happens to AIR-INK when it enters recycling or waste disposal systems.

  • CreatorsAIR–INK® is a proprietary brand founded by Graviky Labs, a spin-off group of MIT Media Lab. 

SUMMARY

Using Pollution as a Resource

 

"Pollution is nothing but resources we're not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value."

– R. Buckminster Fuller 

In 2015, Anirudh Sharma co-founded Graviky Labs began experimenting with ways of making ink from air pollution captured and recycled from the streets of Bangalore, India. Pollution is certainly an ample resource. According to the World Health Organisation, 91% of the world’s population lives in conditions that exceed its guidelines for air pollution, with the consequence that 4.2 million people die per year as a result of poor air quality. The production of conventional black ink via petroleum-dependent processes accounts for 40 to 60 percent of all industrial printing. Sharma’s experiments resulted in the creation of AIR-INK®, a black ink that sequesters carbon through its production rather that creating it. Sharma conceived of AIR–INK® as a way to radically rethink pollution and inks together.  

The process used to produce AIR-INK® converts carbon dioxide from the fine particulate matter expelled into the atmosphere in factory exhaust fumes. The company collaborates with factories in various (and undisclosed) sectors to “harvest” solid carbon from their emissions, using a patented filtering device and technique called Kaalink. Derived from the Hindi word “kaala” meaning black, this steel cylinder affixes to any source, and collects pollution directly from the air in the form of soot; which is filtered of heavy metals and toxins, and hydrated into usable carbon for AIR–INK® products.

The resulting water-resistant, industry-compliant black ink offers a fossil-free alternative to other commercial black inks, which can be used in existing production lines. Graviky Labs claim that one 200ml refill of AIR–INK® sequesters the equivalent of approximately 830 minutes of diesel car pollution. According to the company, more than 10,000 individuals and entities use AIR–INK® products to reduce their carbon footprint. 

While  AIR–INK® system details are currently unavailable, this might be changing. Sharma recently said that the company is “developing our new tech in open-source mode with the goal of making it accessible across the globe to all types of communities and enterprises.” 

 
Making the Largest Impact Possible by Working in Industry

AIR-INK® comes in a variety of forms, suitable for both large-scale industrial and individual purposes: from packaging inks to writing instruments. As an industry supplier, a case can be made that AIR–INK® effectively supports other businesses to achieve their goals to become more environmentally sound. Providing traditional companies with a convenient and inexpensive substitution to quotoidian products holds the potential for a significant impact. 

The company spent 2021 focused on small-scale applications. It added ink for screen printing to its range of products, launched partner projects with Dell and MasterCard, and collaborated with clothing designer Nitin Bal Chauhan on a capsule collection at Lakme Fashion Week. Upcoming projects include pilots for sustainable fabric dyeing with the Kering Group and PVH Corp. 

AIR-INK® and M21D

This integrated and systems-led approach makes AIR–INK® a strong candidate for induction into the M21D Design Study Collection. We are looking further into work and labor conditions in the production process, as well as the wider accessibility of AIR–INK® products and processes. Graviky exclusively holds the rights to the production process behind AIR-INK®, which limits transparency into the process and raises important questions about the privatization and commercialization of climate solutions.