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Air pollution, a great source of printing inks


Bangladesh, one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, has been struggling with air pollution for long. “Dhaka is the second worst capital city in terms of air quality,” according to World Air Quality Report 2018 released by Greenpeace and Air Visual. The report also said that air pollution will cause around 7 million premature deaths globally in 2019 and have a major economic impact. Brick kilns, vehicles run on fuel containing higher levels sulphur, as well as construction work have been identified as major sources of air pollution.

air printing inks
Courtesy: Graviky Labs

But what is the solution? How can we get rid of this air pollution as the death toll is increasing every year due to air pollution?

Can air pollution turn into an asset?

Air quality further declines during the dry months—from October to April—but improves during the monsoon. We can make this polluted air into air ink which will be an asset for ink industry. Air Ink invented by Graviky Labs, is already manufactured in India for commercial basis.

How air ink is introduced?

Founded by Graviky Labs, a spinoff group of MIT Media Lab, air ink produces its materials through a step-by-step process which primarily involves capturing of emissions, separation of carbon from the soot, and then mixing of this carbon with different types of oils and solutions.

In 2013, the Fluid Interfaces research group, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrated the process of converting carbon residue into ink for use in an inkjet cartridge. In 2016, Air Ink products were given to graphic artists in Hong Kong, which is known for its high air pollution, who were requested to paint murals. An artist, who participated in this campaign, said the product, “genius, and deserves a chance.” Products in the form of markers of varying sizes became available for the public to purchase in early 2017.

How air pollution is being turned into ink?

Air ink is made out from unburned carbon coming out of the exhaust pipe of cars, chimneys, and generators. The guys from the lab created a device that captures soot already emitted from vehicles. When the device is attached to the vehicle, it captures pollutants. After only 45 minutes of driving, the device can produce 1 fluid ounce of ink. Finally, when the heavy metals and carcinogens are removed from it, there is a purified carbon-rich pigment left, perfect for ink.

Use of air inks:

  • Permanent marker
  • Whiteboard marker ink
  • Calligraphy ink
  • Acrylic emulsions
  • Screen printing ink
  • Inkjet printer ink

Is it possible to produce air ink in Bangladesh?

Dhaka ranks highly amongst the world’s major cities in terms of poor urban air quality. Substantially reducing air pollution could save up to 3,500 lives and avoid up to 230 million cases of respiratory diseases annually in Bangladesh. In economic terms, this is equivalent to around US$ 500 million in savings due to reduced health care costs and increased productivity per annum. Brickfields in Bangladesh expel over 9.8 million tons of greenhouse gases into the air annually due to a combination of old technology, weak environmental legislation and enforcement and lack of corporate responsibility.

So it is high time for Bangladesh especially for Dhaka city to make a concrete solution of air pollution. If government and reputed universities of Bangladesh (eg: BUET, BUTEX, University of Dhaka, North South University, Brac University, and other reputed universities) take proper steps for ‘Air Ink Project’, it will not only reduce the air pollution but also reduce the import of different types of printing inks which will make our revenue a stable position.

The environmental concerns organization and the responsible ministry of Bangladesh government can inspire the entrepreneurs to invest into these eco-friendly environment savings project. The market size of inks (marker ink, screen printing ink and inject printer ink) is about Tk760 crore of the local manufacturer and share of import is 1,500 crore.

These quantities of demand are met by import mostly from India, China, Malaysia, Korea and other countries. If ‘Air Ink Project’ is successfully done in Bangladesh, automatically, we will be beneficiary by reducing the import of all types of these inks. Also, we can save our environment by establishing this air ink production process.


Engr. Ahmed Javed Jamal
Head of Technical Operations
& Marketing, Silkflex
Bangladesh Ltd

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