Printer Ink From Air Pollution, Can It Be Done? MIT Grad Says "Yes"

Turning soot into printing ink: An MIT grad has discovered a way to turn air pollution into something usefulTurning soot into printing ink: An MIT grad has discovered a way to turn air pollution into something useful


What if we could find a way to turn air pollution into something useful? It would be the ultimate kill-two-birds-with-one-stone achievement — if it could be done. In theory, it would help to clean the air and provide a source of material that is not only in abundant supply, but it's essentially free. If it fueled something, it would be considered renewable or sustainable energy. Either way, it would be a remarkable achievement. According to recent MIT grad Anirudh Sharma, he's doing just that. Sharma claims to have invented a device that is able to take fine particulates or soot, which is a source of air pollution, and turn it into an ingredient for creating black ink for use in printers.

Air Pollution

Unfortunately, air pollution is something that is not in short supply. The problem in China has reached such epic proportions that the country is considering resorting to building plastic bubbles over parks and other common areas for citizens to escape the "smog" that is so pervasive there. It's that or continue to wear the hospital and respiratory masks so many Chinese already don before going outside in order to avoid breathing toxic air. In Beijing, pollution has reportedly soared to hazardous levels at about 20 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization. According to the IBT, outdoor air pollution was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012.


Using air pollution for printer ink could, in essence, be considered recycling. Remarkably, all it takes is the carbon-rich soot removed from the air and two other low-cost ingredients to create the finished product, and those are oil substrate and ordinary rubbing alcohol. The removal of the particulates would be achieved by capturing it in a pump devised by Sharma. He estimates that it would only take running a diesel vehicle engine for an hour to produce enough soot to fill a typical ink cartridge and says, “With a little bit of research it can become as good as the printing ink HP sells to you.” That ink, by the way, accounts for roughly 70 percent of their profits by selling these cartridges at a 400% profit margin.

Most Polluted Cities in the World

Ironically, the idea for this project came from the fact Anirudh Sharma is originally from India, where six of the country's cities recently made the Top 10 list for Most Polluted Cities in the World and Delhi taking the dubious title of No. 1. It was during a stuffy cab drive when Sharma noticed that his sweating skin was turning black due to all of the soot in the air that he began to think about the project. In regards to his efforts, his website claims "This is not an attempt to win over the pollution. Just a minor itch that led me to build something cool from observations arising from nostalgia of the days back in India." If you're curious about the inner workings of the project, his blog pretty much explains it all, for interested parties that want to take the time to read it.

Repurposing Trends

There's no word yet on whether or not any of the big companies in connection to printer ink sales are beating Anirudh Sharma's door down yet or whether they'll attempt to harvest the soot themselves, once they know how he's doing it. Hopefully, this will encourage other inventors to try and come up with innovative ideas for capturing and recycling various forms of pollution. Just as recycling or repurposing has taken hold, so could trends like this.