Indian Inventors Turn Pollution into Ink

02 June, 2018

Workers at an Indian start-up company are busy cutting up pieces of metal and using them to make unusual devices.

Company officials say these devices will capture smoke from diesel generators and turn it into ink.

Young engineers believe the technology will help to clean up the air in New Delhi, India's capital. Its air quality is among the dirtiest in the world.

People often blame the millions of cars on the streets of New Delhi for the air pollution. But another big reason is the city's diesel generators. Industries and buildings use the huge machines to light up homes and offices during power outages. These outages often strike in the summer months.

Arpit Dhupar is one of three engineers who set up the start-up company Chakr Innovation. He says that pollution from cars and other vehicles get all the media attention, but adds that "the silent polluters are the diesel generators."

Dhupar decided to find a way to fight air pollution three years ago. At the time, he saw a wall blackened from the smoke coming from a diesel generator.

This sight led to the creation of Chakr Innovation. Dhupar had personally experienced the effect of the air pollution. He developed breathing problems while growing up in Delhi.

As the dirty air becomes a serious health issue for many Indians, business leaders are looking at ways to improve air quality.

Experts estimate that motor vehicles are responsible for 22 percent of particulate matter emissions in Delhi. Experts say that diesel generators are responsible for about 15 percent of those emissions. That air pollution travels deep into the lungs and can cause many kinds of breathing problems.

FILE - Schoolchildren hold banners to express their distress at the alarming levels of pollution in the city, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 15, 2017.
FILE - Schoolchildren hold banners to express their distress at the alarming levels of pollution in the city, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 15, 2017.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr Innovation has begun selling devices to capture pollution from diesel engines. To date, the devices have been set up in 50 places, including private businesses.

The technology involves cooling the air pollution in a "heat exchanger" where the dirty particles come together. These are then moved into another area that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated from the emissions and turned into ink.

One of the first businesses to work with Chakr was the law office of Jyoti Sagar. Sagar's daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi's deadly air. He said the technology "is very impactful, but is beautifully simple."

"Let's be responsible and let's at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not? In the end, it's good for all of us."

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about improving Delhi's air by reducing vehicular pollution and enacting stronger rules for vehicle manufacturers. But the same has not happened for diesel generators. There are efforts to punish businesses that dirty the air, but this often leads to them finding ways to get around the rules.

Tushar Mathur works at Chakr Innovation. He feels that turning smoke into ink is a useful solution. He calls the technology "a win-win between businesses and the environment."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Anjana Pasricha reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

diesel n. a type of fuel that is used in vehicles with diesel engines

emissions n. something sent out or given off

generator n. a machine that produces electricity

ink – n. a colored material used for writing and printing

isolatev. to set apart from others; to separate

impactful adj. having a forceful effect