CO2 Utilization

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

CO2 utilization encompasses a range of technologies and processes that convert captured carbon dioxide into useful products. This approach aims to create a circular carbon economy, where CO2 emissions are not just reduced but also recycled and reused, minimizing environmental impact while generating economic value.

Impact on climate action

CO2 Utilization revolutionizes climate action by repurposing captured carbon dioxide into valuable products like fuels, chemicals, and building materials. By transforming CO2 from a pollutant into a resource, it incentivizes emissions reduction and fosters a circular economy, significantly advancing global efforts to mitigate climate change.

Underlying
Technology

CO2 utilization leverages various technologies and concepts, including:

  • Chemical Conversion: This involves transforming CO2 into various chemicals and materials through chemical reactions. Examples include the production of polymers, fuels, and construction materials.
  • Biological Conversion: Utilizing biological processes, such as microalgae cultivation or enzymatic reactions, to convert CO2 into biofuels, bioplastics, and other bio-based products.
  • Mineralization: This process involves reacting CO2 with minerals to form stable carbonates, which can be used in construction materials or for permanent CO2 storage.
  • Electrochemical Conversion: This emerging technology utilizes electricity to convert CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels, offering potential for integration with renewable energy sources.

TRL : Varies (4-9) depending on the specific technology and application.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Direct CO2 Conversion to Fuels: Researchers are developing innovative catalysts and processes to directly convert CO2 into fuels like methanol, ethanol, and even jet fuel.
  • CO2-Based Polymers and Plastics: New polymers and plastics are being synthesized from CO2, offering potential alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics.
  • Carbon-Negative Concrete: CO2 can be used to create carbon-negative concrete, which absorbs more CO2 during its lifecycle than it emits during production.
  • CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR): Injecting CO2 into oil reservoirs can enhance oil recovery while permanently storing CO2 underground.
  • CO2 as a Feedstock for Algae Cultivation: CO2 can be used as a feedstock for growing microalgae, which can then be converted into biofuels, bioplastics, or animal feed.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Chemical Conversion Technologies
  • Biological CO2 Conversion Processes
  • Mineralization for CO2 Utilization
  • Electrochemical CO2 Conversion
  • Direct CO2-to-Fuel Catalysts
  • CO2-Derived Polymer Innovation
  • Carbon-Negative Construction Materials
  • CO2 Utilization in Concrete Production
  • Algae-Based CO2 Utilization Systems
  • Sustainable Aviation Fuels from CO2
  • Carbon Capture for Methanol Production
  • CO2-Derived Bioplastics Development
  • CO2 Utilization in Agriculture
  • CO2 Conversion for Chemical Synthesis

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • CarbonCure Technologies:
    • Technology Focus: CarbonCure Technologies specializes in carbon capture and utilization (CCU) within the concrete industry. They have developed a process that injects captured CO2 into concrete during production, where it undergoes mineralization, effectively reducing the carbon footprint of concrete.
    • Uniqueness: Their technology offers a sustainable solution to a major environmental issue within the construction sector by permanently storing CO2 within building materials. This not only reduces emissions but also enhances the strength and durability of concrete.
    • End-User Segments: CarbonCure’s solutions primarily target the construction industry, including concrete producers, contractors, and developers looking to meet sustainability goals and regulatory requirements.
  • LanzaTech:
    • Technology Focus: LanzaTech specializes in converting waste carbon streams, including CO2, into valuable products such as fuels and chemicals using microbial fermentation processes. They focus on industrial emissions from steel mills, refineries, and chemical plants.
    • Uniqueness: LanzaTech’s approach offers a circular economy solution by transforming waste carbon into valuable commodities, thereby reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to heavy industries with significant CO2 emissions, including steel manufacturing, oil refining, and chemical production, aiming to help them decarbonize their operations while creating new revenue streams.
  • Blue Planet:
    • Technology Focus: Blue Planet specializes in using captured CO2 to produce synthetic limestone aggregates for use in construction materials, such as concrete and asphalt. Their process mimics natural carbonation reactions but accelerates them using industrial methods.
    • Uniqueness: Blue Planet’s technology provides a scalable and economically viable solution for permanently sequestering CO2 in construction materials, effectively reducing carbon emissions while producing valuable building materials.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions target the construction industry, offering sustainable alternatives to traditional aggregates and helping developers and contractors meet green building standards and sustainability targets.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • RWTH Aachen University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at RWTH Aachen University are pioneering novel CO2 capture technologies that are highly efficient and cost-effective. They are exploring advanced materials such as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and porous polymers for capturing CO2 from industrial emissions and flue gases.
    • Uniqueness of Research: RWTH Aachen’s research stands out for its focus on developing integrated CO2 capture and utilization systems. They are exploring innovative approaches to convert captured CO2 into value-added products such as chemicals, fuels, and building materials, thereby creating a circular carbon economy.
    • End-use Applications: The technologies developed at RWTH Aachen have broad applications in industries such as chemical manufacturing, energy production, and construction. For example, CO2-derived polymers can be used in the production of sustainable plastics, while CO2-based fuels can help decarbonize transportation sectors.
  • University of Oxford:
    • Technology Enhancements: The University of Oxford is at the forefront of research on CO2 utilization through catalytic conversion processes. Their researchers are developing novel catalysts and reaction pathways to transform captured CO2 into valuable products such as methane, methanol, and synthetic fuels.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Oxford’s research distinguishes itself through its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in chemistry, engineering, and environmental science. They are exploring new methods for enhancing the selectivity and efficiency of CO2 conversion reactions, with a focus on sustainability and scalability.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2 utilization technologies developed at Oxford have diverse applications, including energy storage, renewable fuels, and carbon-neutral chemicals. For instance, CO2-derived methanol can serve as a clean-burning fuel or a precursor for the synthesis of organic compounds in the chemical industry.
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Technology Enhancements: Caltech researchers are pushing the boundaries of CO2 capture and utilization through advanced electrochemical processes. They are developing electrocatalysts and electrolysis systems to convert CO2 into useful products such as carbon monoxide, ethylene, and formic acid.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Caltech’s research is notable for its emphasis on scalable and sustainable CO2 utilization technologies. They are exploring innovative reactor designs and operational strategies to enhance the efficiency and reliability of electrochemical CO2 conversion processes.
    • End-use Applications: The CO2 utilization technologies developed at Caltech have applications across multiple sectors, including renewable energy, chemical manufacturing, and agriculture. For example, CO2-derived formic acid can be used as a hydrogen carrier for fuel cells or as a chemical feedstock for producing pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several CO2 utilization technologies have reached commercial maturity and are being implemented:

  • CarbonCure Technologies: Their technology is being used by concrete producers around the world, injecting captured CO2 into concrete to create a more sustainable building material.
  • LanzaTech: Their fermentation technology is being deployed in various industrial settings, converting CO2 emissions into ethanol and other products.
  • Blue Planet: Their synthetic limestone is being used in construction projects, offering a carbon-negative alternative to traditional limestone.