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Printer ink is what companies selling printers make the majority of their profits on. Now MIT graduate Anirudh Sharma has come up with a way to make this ink by “repurposing” pollution. Right now, ink that we buy in printer cartridges is basically just carbon black color mixed with a variety of chemicals, and Sharma has come up with a way to replace the carbon with the soot that pollutes the air in many developed and developing cities.

Sharma has designed the so-called Kaala-printer machine (kaala means black), and he came up with the concept for it during one of his trips to his home in India. Smog and soot is abundant in his home city, which led him to thinking whether this material, which does tend to turn everything black given enough time, could be collected and used to make ink.

The prototype printer he built is capable of pulling soot from a burning candle. This soot is accumulated in a modified syringe that is then used to refill an HP inkjet cartridge. The other materials used to make this eco-friendly ink are vodka and olive oil. Once the modified cartridge is integrated with an Arduino ink shield, the resulting ink can be used to print at a resolution of 96 dpi.

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Currently this soot based ink still gives a pretty non-uniform printing result, but Sharma is convinced he could make it even blacker. His eco ink would still need to pass the toxicity tests before being released on the market, but he is confident this will happen and that the soot-based ink he’s producing will be just as good as the currently available ink. It will also be a lot greener and help in the worldwide fight against pollution. According to Sharma’s calculations, the output from a late-model diesel engine is capable of producing enough soot to fill an ink cartridge in about an hour, while a chimney can do so in only about ten minutes.

Here is a video that show the entire process Sharma developed.