Pollution becomes a resource, and Graviky Labs leads the way.
By Purva Chawla
November 7, 2016
As I write this, the city I was born in is choking.
Wrapped in smog, and inhaling 15 times the maximum soot, gasses and particulate it's people should be exposed to, New Delhi is being strangled by its pollution.
Schools, construction, and demolition, a major power plant even–are all on hold this week.
As concern for family and friends mounts, I am reminded again of the inviolable relevance of the work that Bangalore, India-based Graviky Labs is doing.
September 5, 2016
A few weeks ago, the streets of Hong Kong came alive with art; and the world sat up and took notice.
This was no ordinary street art; Every mural was painted with Air-Ink–rich, dark pigment, generated entirely from captured and treated air pollution.
150 liters of Air-Ink made its way into the hands of Hong Kong's artists, in a project sponsored by Tiger Beer, in collaboration with Graviky Labs-the inventors of Air-Ink. Trailing alongside this array of murals, was the disclaimer that this sizeable volume of paint was essentially 2,500 hours of (captured) diesel pollution.
Pollution as paint, you ask? Yes, the team at Graviky Labs used their proprietary contraption (Kaalink™), retrofitted to the exhaust pipe of vehicles, to capture outgoing pollutants. The soot that was collected, was treated to remove heavy metals and carcinogens, leaving behind a purified carbon pigment. This carbon was used to make a variety of inks and pigment–Air-Ink.
Pollution is a resource.
Stop for just a moment here, and you will realize that in this quick introduction to Air-Ink, you have already been slammed with a new school of thought, new strategy, and technology.
Let's start with the fact that Graviky Labs has turned Pollution into a ‘resource,' and is helping us visualize it as a currency of sorts. Take the example of the 30 ml pen that is part of the Air-Ink inventory of products like oil-based paints, sprayed paints and pens. In this new currency of material, set forth by Graviky Labs, one such pen equals 40 to 50 minutes of captured emissions.
This an idea that turns every existing approach to environmental pollution on its head. Like its creators–Graviky Labs–It seems to say "We can't wait for clean energy to replace polluting fuels entirely, we have to act now, and turn what we are avoiding, into a resource."
Air-Ink comes from Kaalink™
Beyond its beautiful collaborations with artists and designers, and its transformation of environmental scum, there is an even bigger takeaway from Air-Ink.
For starters, Air-Ink is but one of the many applications of a proprietary tool and technology developed by Graviky Labs, called Kaalink™. The Bangalore-based spinoff of the MIT Media Lab is responsible for inventing Kaalink™, which retrofits onto the engine exhaust pipes of cars and captures outgoing emissions, and thereby pollution.
While a massive movement of artists and designers, around the world, who will use Air-Ink in their work is taking shape, the interdisciplinary team at Graviky Labs is already investigating multiple other transformations of this captured carbon, and applications of Kaalink™– including turning the soot to Carbon Nanotubes. In the future, they hope to work with the emissions from other polluting sources like chimneys, boats, and generators as well.
Interdisciplinary powerhouse–Science and Technology meet Design at Graviky Labs
Perhaps even larger than Kaalink™ and its output Air-Ink is the concept of Graviky Labs itself. Imagine a powerhouse of ideas and diverse talent–including both design thinking and advanced technological skills. This is Graviky Labs.
Graviky Labs was founded in 2013 by MIT Media Lab alum Anirudh Sharma, with Nikhil Kaushik and Nitesh Kadyan. Through my recent conversation with them, I learned about the unique and experimental nature of their practice. Team members at Graviky Labs aren't hired with an end-product or specific role in mind–one that they are expected to work on exclusively. Instead, Graviky Labs is simply an agglomeration of the best and brightest from the fields of technology, science and industrial design. They are brought together by the power of their ideas and are given free reign to explore and develop on them, as well as find the direction they wish to pursue. It is, in the true sense, a Lab-like environment, where a culture of experimentation prevails.
Today the focus at Graviky Labs is on projects of environmental concern and impact, but they have exhibited an expertise in multiple other realms as well. Sensor technology and advanced 3-D printing are among these realms. Most recently, the Graviky team experimented with a stroke based direct manipulation interface for 2D-CNCing, in a project titled called 'Chalkaat.'
Chalkaat (or चल काट in Hindi) is a pen stroke-based UI (User interface) for interacting with laser cutters, where users can express themselves more directly and freely by working directly 'on the workpiece.'
On the one hand, Graviky Labs is working on multiple collaborations with artists and designers all over the world, and fostering their use of Air-Ink. On the other hand, the Bangalore-based crew is working on the large-scale manufacture of Air-Ink products in India, and the creation of a formal distribution channel to reach artists, designers, and galleries globally.
I, for one, can't wait to see what technology, solutions, and interdisciplinary partnerships emerge from Graviky Labs next.