Recycle CO2: New Strategy to Create Products

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Recycling CO2 is an alternative that can reduce the emissions of gases concentrated in the air through a very simple process.

Planet earth with recycling symbol

Twelve, a startup in California, founded in 2015, has bet on an innovative idea that is now a reality: manufacturing materials from CO2. Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

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Leer en español: Reciclar CO2: Estrategia de empresas para crear sus productos

One of the great challenges for human beings in recent years has been to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, since its impact on the environment has large-scale consequences such as the intensification of the natural greenhouse effect. In part, this has been difficult to resolve because the countries that emit the most polluting gases are not very committed to the issue and for this reason they have not developed efficient proposals for a transition towards clean and renewable energies.

However, Twelve, a California startup founded in 2015, has bet on an innovative idea that is now a reality: making materials from CO2. An amazing project that could be an opportunity to the environmental crisis.

This is an important step in the climate situation of the world. Above all, how the industry can start to make small changes to improve natural disasters from the transformation of carbon that is concentrated in the air.

Also read: Five Environmentally Friendly Products

How do they use CO2 to make other materials?

Twelve is one of several innovative companies using a new technology capable of transforming carbon dioxide into other materials. It is a process that is carried out through a metal box the size of a washing machine, whose interior is made up of a stack of plates. They call this plate filling "the black sheet" because it is a black polymer membrane coated with a patented metallic catalyst that performs the conversion.

Likewise, this metal box simply uses water and renewable energy through a new type of electrolyzer with which CO2 is transformed into "synthesis gas", that is, a mixture between carbon monoxide and hydrogen that essentially creates different products using airborne fossil fuels. In other words, what this powerful machine does is what plants do, eliminate harmful emissions in the process. "This is a new way to move carbon through our economy without taking it out of the ground," said Nicholas Flanders, co-founder and CEO of Twelve.

Now, thanks to this process, products such as vodka, diamonds, sportswear, concrete, plastic, foam, carbon fiber, among other materials, can be manufactured. However, this company has also been exploring the use this technology to make Mercedes-Benz vehicle interior parts and ingredients for laundry detergents.

Other companies such as Air Company, CarbonCure, Solar Foods and Air Protein, also bet on similar projects where they transform the CO2 in the air to make new products.

Negative consequences

Although the proposal to transform CO2 into synthesis gas is very attractive in terms of environmental innovation, many open questions remain. The first is: How to make this practice replicate on a large scale? In order to have a truly positive effect on nature, this technology must be rapidly expanded for mass production and can also be offered at competitive prices. The challenge in this case is the time and capital to carry it out.

The second is how to find clients who also bet on this environmental and commercial proposal? Startups need big companies to partner and buy their CO2. However, this can be tricky as getting into established supply chains is often very difficult.

Another question is how to offer huge amounts of CO2 at low cost to large industries? This is a problem because carbon dioxide harvesting from air transformation is done on a very small scale today. So, in technology it is developed and, for that reason, it is more expensive. Which complicates making a profitable offer in the market.

In conclusion, for these projects to have a positive effect on the climate and can be carried out on a massive scale, the intervention and support of the public sector is essential. As long as that does not happen or until sufficient financing is found for their infrastructure, industries worldwide will choose to continue exploiting fossil fuels for the production of materials and, therefore, the climate crisis will continue to worsen.