A hand-drawn billboard by Kristopher Ho will go up in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue today drawn with Air-Ink, an ink made from particles of black soot captured from car exhausts and chimneys. It is an invention of Anirudh Sharma, formerly of MIT Media Lab, and his company Graviky Labs, supported with investment from beer brand Tiger.
A group of artists has also been commissioned to create artworks using Air Ink in paint and pen form, which will be displayed in The Clean Air Gallery, a temporary exhibition space in Brixton. The creatives include Mr Doodle, Roderick Mills, Jonny Hannah, Josh Parkin and Goodwives and Warriors, who have used the product in various forms and on a range of media. Jonny Hannah commented on the paint that “it has a really deep black tone”.
Speaking to It’s Nice That, Anirudh says that both his tech research and interests in the arts merged on this invention. “My heart always laid in building technologies but I wanted to make something nice out of it.
“By taking the soot out of the air and using it as a pigment, it’s confined to art pieces instead. Pollution is another type of trash we should be recycling.”
At a pop-up lab and studio in the Truman Brewery last week, Anirudh showed It’s Nice That the particles of soot, captured from London air, each of which is one 70th the width of a hair, “which ends up in our lungs and blood”. These are purified and reduced down to pure carbon pigment, mixed with solvents and other additives to create paint and ink for different applications such as screenprints, painting, drawing and writing.
The product is currently in beta and awaiting further funding and support to increase the scale of production.
“The wider impact will come when a government or city agrees to do a large scale pilot,” explains Anirudh. “We’re calling on Sadiq Khan to do this, to capture London’s pollution and repurpose it into more beautiful forms.”