Turning Pollution Into Ink: The Future of Clean Printing

kaalaWhen companies set out to be “green”, the idea is to affect the environment as little as possible and to make the least amount of impact on our world. Turning that idea on its head, a group of MIT scientists has created an ink that they hope would actually make a significant impact on the environment, but in a most positive manner. Piggybacking on technical advances that have given billboards and roof tiles the ability to absorb smog from the air thanks to a coat of smog-eating titanium dioxide, the MIT group has found a use for all the residue that get collected by these air purifying fixtures.

While others have found a way to compress the residue into diamonds and plastics that can be used to package consumer goods, a group of MIT scientists led by Anirudh Sharma invented a device that turns the collected pollution into something that is a prominent part of most households and business offices: printer ink.

The project came about as Sharma reflected on the pollution he came across in his life in India. He invented a device called the Kaala that can collect the pollution at the source, eliminating the pollution even before it can darken the air of large urban areas. Using vodka and olive oil, Sharma liquified the soot collected by the small device in order to create the faux ink in his lab as shown in the video below. To him, the project seems obvious. He states on the project’s website, “Just a minor itch that led me to build something cool from observations arising from the nostalgia of the days back in India. There’s so much soot/pollution around us, [especially] in crowded cities. What if the same could be repurposed to generate ink for printers?”

Sharma envisions his project on a mass scale, working with the help of everyone out there. He thinks that with everyday people collecting the pollution they create by using clips or attachments to their vehicles’ exhaust, the change would be easy to implement. While he knows that funding and support will be required to make the idea a successful initiative, Sharma hopes that his project will eventually help stop pollution before it ever hits the air.

Learn more on Takepart and on the project’s website.

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Category: Technology