Imperial graduate Nicole Stjernsward has invented Kaiku, a system that turns plants into powdered paint pigments using vaporisation technology.
Avocados, pomegranates, beetroots, lemons and onions are just some of the fruits and vegetables that can be placed into Kaiku and turned into the raw material for paints, inks and dyes.
Skins and peels are boiled in water to produce a dye, which is transferred to a reservoir in the Kaiku system. Along with hot, pressurised air, this dye is forced through an atomising nozzle into a glass vacuum cleaner.
The fine mist produced is hot enough that it vaporises almost instantly, and the dry particles are pulled through the chamber and into the collection reservoir.
Stjernsward designed Kaiku to offer a natural alternative to using artificial pigments that can often be toxic.
“By transitioning to natural based pigments, it will be easier for us to recycle products and make them more circular,” Stjernsward, who studied at Imperial College London, told Dezeen.
“Since many synthetic pigments today are toxic or made of ambiguous materials, colour is typically considered a ‘contamination’ in the Circular Economy principles,” she added. “I hope to change this paradigm.”
These methods have fallen out of fashion with industrialisation and the introduction of cheaper pigments derived from petrochemicals. But the effect on people and the environment can be disastrous.
Paints can release petrochemicals into the air long after they have dried, causing respiratory problems and harming the ozone layer. Industrial effluent containing synthetic dyes leaches into the water system, poisoning aquatic life and posing a major health hazard to humans.