28 Jan 2019 Story Cities and lifestyles

Turning diesel to ink in India

Since Arpit Dhupar, founder of Chakr Innovation, won the Young Champions of the Earth prize for Asia and the Pacific region, his start-up has come a long way. Chakr Innovation captures the dirty pollutant known as particulate matter from diesel engines and turns it into ink.

Diesel generators are extensively used in India for power back-up, emitting unburned diesel or soot. In areas where there is no connection to electrical grids, diesel generators are the primary source of energy, and are used on average for eight hours a day. 

Chakr Innovation aims to cut Delhi's air pollution levels, largely caused by diesel generator emissions. Such emissions lead to particulate matter density as high as 300 micrograms per cubic metre. At such high levels, soot becomes a danger to human health: the World Health Organization’s safety limit is 23 micrograms per cubic metre.

“The soot we are capturing is so fine that it cannot be filtered by your nose or lungs, it goes directly into the blood stream,” said Dhupar.

“This is dangerous for human health. We have developed a technology that captures the soot particles before entering the atmosphere, without causing any harmful impact on the performance of the engine. This is unheard of in the industry.”  

Literally printing with pollution, Chakr Innovation is converting the soot into ink. The company’s device, called the Chakr Shield, captures soot particles by suspending them in liquid form, preventing the small soot particles from becoming airborne again.

Once the soot particles, heavy metals and harmful substances are separated, the pigment is extracted and a binder is added to make ink.

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Painting with pollution and turning soot to ink. Photo by: Chakr Shield

 

The company has sold over 60 devices so far, with 18 customers across industries. Its first installation was at American Tower Corporation, and the biggest one was with an oil and gas company where the challenging part was placing the product at the top of a high building.

Chakr’s clients also include Dell—using soot ink to print text on boxes—a small step towards reducing the millions of annual deaths that result from particulate matter pollution. Tata group is another large corporation that uses Chakr’s technology to reduce their overall environmental footprint. 

“Ink is a positive by-product that is meaningful, but it’s not the main problem we are looking to solve. There is no shortage of ink in the world. The problem we are solving is reducing pollution: that is the centre of our business model,” Dhupar explains. 

“Soot is very fine, almost 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of hair,” he added. “The carbon we are collecting has a high surface area and can be used to purify water. We would then be using air pollution to tackle water pollution! But experiments are still in their early phases.”

“We are an innovation company rather than a production company. In future, we are working on innovations to tackle air pollution from chimneys, boilers, incinerators and shipsso we need to keep innovating.”

 

 We encourage everyone who wants to make a difference for our planet to see if they have what it takes to be a Young Champion of the Earth. Stay tuned to this website—the application portal is opening soon! The Young Champions of the Earth Prize is powered by Covestro.