Tech & Science

Companies that turn CO2 emissions into something useful

Direct Air Capture technology is now at a point that solar was 20 years ago and set to be the next big thing in green tech.

PH: Climeworks

PH: Climeworks

Large-scale carbon management that will convert CO2 into useful products or divert it safely underground is a growing technology that can greatly help achieve climate stability.

This industry is small but growing. A new carbon economy where CO2 is used manufacture products using clean energy is now feasible.

“These companies and technologies are essentially where batteries were 10 years ago and where solar was 20 years ago. The investment community can smell that. They get that this is the next thing,” Julio Friedmann, a senior research scholar at the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and former Obama administration official told Fast Company.

1. Climeworks Direct Air Capture Plants

Climeworks is doing pioneering work with Direct Air Capture plants, which can be set up virtually anywhere and suck carbon right out of the air. The company recently launched a new pilot plant in Troia Italy where carbon from the air is being turned into carbon-neutral fuel.

Another pilot program that Climeworks along with Carbfix and Reykjavik Energy is involved in, is in Iceland at the Hellisheidi Power Plant. The plant is located about 25 km from Reykjavik. During the plant's pilot phrase, captured CO2 is mixed with water and pumped underground into basalt rock. The solution reacts with the rock and turns into harmless calcite stone. This method stores CO2 safely and permanently underground.

Another Climeworks project near Zurich, Switzerland is capturing CO2 to sell to a neighboring greenhouse which uses the product to make its vegetables grow faster. The company is also in talks with beverage companies that use CO2 in sparkling water or soda. Especially for production plants in remote areas, this industry can be used for job creation.

2. Carbon Engineering Creates Synthetic Fuel

One of the first products being developed by Direct Air Capture technology is liquid fuel. Carbon Engineering is developing a DAC closed-loop system to create clean-burning liquid fuels in a pilot plant in Squamish, Canada. The synthetic fuels produced can radically reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels. This technology enables the production of synthetic transportation fuels – such as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel – using only atmospheric CO2 and hydrogen split from water. The entire process is even powered by renewable energy.

PH: Carbon Engineering

PH: Carbon Engineering

3. Newlight Makes Plastic From CO2

Newlight, a company in California, captures methane from a dairy farm in California, which is then transported to a bioreactor. From there, it is mixed with air and interacts with enzymes to form a polymer trademarked as AirCarbon. The material is already being used to make desk chairs, computer packaging, and smartphone covers, and will likely find broader applications in the near future.

4. Opus 12 Recycles CO2 Into Chemicals and Fuels

Through a complicated process that would require a degree in chemical engineering to understand, Opus 12 combines carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes with water and a catalyst in a reactor. When electricity is applied to the reactor, it can produce fuel or plastics. "Our technology bolts onto any source of CO2 emissions, and with only water and electricity as inputs, transforms that CO2 into some of the world's most critical chemical products." Opus 12 is working on creating a commercial-scale prototype and hope to someday be able to recycle tons of carbon dioxide emissions every day.

When investors catch on and governments get on board, CO2 Air sucking technology can reduce and hopefully reverse global warming and save the world.