CO2-Based Carbon Nanomaterials

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

CO2-based carbon nanomaterials represent a cutting-edge innovation that transforms captured carbon dioxide (CO2) into valuable and high-performance materials like carbon nanotubes, graphene, and fullerenes. This approach not only offers a sustainable solution for utilizing CO2 emissions but also unlocks the potential of these exceptional materials for a wide range of applications, from electronics to energy storage and advanced composites.

Impact on climate action

The innovation of CO2-Based Carbon Nanomaterials within the theme of C2V – CO2 to Value significantly enhances climate action by converting harmful carbon dioxide emissions into valuable nanomaterials. This reduces atmospheric CO2 levels while simultaneously providing sustainable alternatives, fostering a cleaner environment and promoting green technological advancements.


Several innovative techniques enable the production of CO2-based carbon nanomaterials:

  • Electrochemical Conversion: Electrolysis can be used to reduce CO2 into carbon and oxygen. Under specific conditions and with the use of catalysts, the carbon atoms can assemble into nanostructures like carbon nanotubes.
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD): CO2 can be used as a carbon source in CVD processes, where it reacts with a substrate at high temperatures to deposit carbon nanomaterials like graphene.
  • Plasma-Assisted Synthesis: Plasma technology can be used to activate CO2 molecules and facilitate their conversion into carbon nanomaterials, offering a potentially energy-efficient and scalable approach.
  • Bio-Inspired Synthesis: Researchers are exploring methods to mimic natural processes, such as using enzymes or bacteria, to convert CO2 into carbon nanomaterials in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

TRL : 3-6 (depending on the specific nanomaterial and production method)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Catalyst Design and Optimization: Developing efficient and selective catalysts is crucial for controlling the size, shape, and properties of the resulting carbon nanomaterials. Researchers are exploring metal-based catalysts, metal oxides, and even bio-inspired catalysts like enzymes.
  • Process Control and Scalability: Optimizing reaction conditions, such as temperature, pressure, and flow rates, is essential for achieving consistent material quality and enabling large-scale production.
  • Tailoring Nanomaterial Properties: Scientists are investigating methods to control the properties of CO2-derived carbon nanomaterials, such as their electrical conductivity, mechanical strength, and surface area, to meet specific application requirements.
  • Integration with Existing Manufacturing Processes: Integrating CO2 conversion technologies with existing manufacturing processes for carbon nanomaterials can offer a more cost-effective and sustainable approach.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Electrochemical CO2 Reduction
  • CO2-Based Chemical Vapor Deposition
  • Plasma-Assisted Carbon Nanomaterial Synthesis
  • Catalyst Development for CO2 Utilization
  • Optimizing Catalyst Selectivity
  • Control of Nanomaterial Properties
  • Scalability of CO2 Conversion Processes
  • Tailoring Nanomaterials for Applications
  • Enhancing Electrical Conductivity
  • Strengthening Mechanical Properties
  • Maximizing Surface Area
  • Carbon Nanotube Production from CO2
  • Graphene Synthesis from Waste CO2
  • Sustainable Carbon Nanomaterial Production
  • Economic Viability of CO2-Based Materials

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • C2CNT:
    • Technology Focus: C2CNT focuses on the conversion of CO2 into carbon nanotubes (CNTs) through a process called carbon nanotube synthesis. This innovative approach not only mitigates CO2 emissions but also produces valuable nanomaterials.
    • Uniqueness: C2CNT’s technology offers a dual benefit of carbon sequestration and nanomaterial production, making it economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Their process could potentially revolutionize carbon capture and utilization efforts.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include industries that require carbon nanotubes for various applications, such as electronics, aerospace, automotive, and materials science. Additionally, their carbon capture technology could appeal to industries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • George Washington University (GW) Carbon Nanotube Group:
    • Technology Focus: This research group at George Washington University specializes in the synthesis and characterization of carbon nanotubes, including those derived from CO2 conversion. Their work likely spans fundamental research as well as applied aspects of carbon nanomaterials.
    • Uniqueness: GW’s Carbon Nanotube Group contributes to the academic and scientific understanding of carbon nanomaterials, particularly their synthesis methods and properties. Their research could lead to breakthroughs in nanotechnology and environmental science.
    • End-User Segments: While not a commercial entity, the research findings from GW’s Carbon Nanotube Group can benefit a wide range of industries interested in utilizing carbon nanotubes, such as electronics, energy storage, biomedical devices, and composite materials.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC):
    • Technology Focus: The University of Illinois at Chicago likely conducts research on CO2-based carbon nanomaterials, possibly focusing on synthesis techniques, material characterization, or applications development.
    • Uniqueness: UIC’s research efforts contribute to the scientific understanding and advancement of CO2-based carbon nanomaterials. Their work may explore novel synthesis methods, functionalization techniques, or applications in areas like catalysis, sensors, or energy storage.
    • End-User Segments: Similar to GW’s Carbon Nanotube Group, UIC’s research findings can benefit industries seeking to leverage carbon nanomaterials for various applications. Their research may also attract interest from governmental agencies, NGOs, and companies involved in environmental sustainability and nanotechnology.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are focusing on developing novel catalysts and reaction pathways to convert CO2 into high-value carbon nanomaterials. They are exploring innovative techniques such as electrochemical and photochemical processes to efficiently capture and utilize CO2 for nanomaterial synthesis.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach involves the integration of cutting-edge materials science, chemistry, and engineering principles to design catalysts with enhanced selectivity and activity for CO2 conversion. They are also investigating the use of renewable energy sources to power the CO2 conversion processes, making them more sustainable and energy-efficient.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2-based carbon nanomaterials developed at MIT have diverse applications, including energy storage, catalysis, and electronics. For example, carbon nanotubes synthesized from CO2 can be used as electrodes in lithium-ion batteries, improving their performance and reducing their environmental footprint.
  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Stanford University are exploring novel approaches to synthesize carbon nanomaterials directly from CO2 using advanced nanotechnology and materials engineering techniques. They are investigating the use of plasma-assisted processes and template-assisted growth methods to control the structure and properties of the resulting nanomaterials.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s research focuses on the scalable production of CO2-based carbon nanomaterials with tailored properties for specific applications. They are developing new synthesis routes and reactor designs to optimize the production efficiency and yield of carbon nanomaterials from CO2 while minimizing energy consumption and environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The carbon nanomaterials synthesized at Stanford have potential applications in various fields, including aerospace, automotive, and healthcare. For instance, carbon nanofibers derived from CO2 can be used as lightweight and high-strength materials in aircraft components, reinforcing composites, and biomedical implants.
  • Rice University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Rice University are pioneering the development of novel catalysts and nanomaterials for CO2 conversion into value-added products, including carbon nanomaterials. They are leveraging their expertise in chemistry, materials science, and nanotechnology to design catalysts with enhanced stability and activity for CO2 utilization.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Rice’s research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanisms of CO2 activation and transformation on catalyst surfaces at the molecular level. They are developing advanced spectroscopic and computational techniques to elucidate the reaction pathways and optimize the catalyst design for selective CO2 conversion.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2-derived carbon nanomaterials developed at Rice have potential applications in energy storage, environmental remediation, and nanoelectronics. For example, carbon quantum dots synthesized from CO2 can be used as fluorescent probes for bioimaging and drug delivery, enabling precise diagnosis and targeted therapy in healthcare applications.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Large-scale commercial production of CO2-based carbon nanomaterials is still limited, but some companies are making progress:

  • C2CNT: Is actively seeking partnerships to scale up its carbon nanotube production and develop applications in various industries.