Innovation That Matters

| Photo source New Iridium, courtesy of RE:TV

Photocatalysts upcycle CO2 into commodity chemicals


A new process uses light instead of heat to produce chemicals – saving energy and using up captured CO2 in the process

Spotted: More and more CO2 is now being captured at source, and if all the projects that have been announced come online, around 279 million tonnes (around 253 million tonnes) of CO2 will be captured every year by 2030. This is obviously good news, but the next question is what will be done with all this captured CO2? While some will be sequestered, some could be used to produce new products.

Finding sustainable uses for captured CO2 is the challenge taken up by New Iridium. The company has developed a new photocatalysis platform that can efficiently convert CO2 into new, high-value chemicals using low-carbon materials like plant-based feedstocks such as corn- or sugarcane-based ethanol, as well as CO2. The process is also energy efficient, as it can be undertaken at ambient temperatures, reducing overall energy usage.

Instead of using high temperatures to activate chemical reactions, New Iridium’s process uses light. The company’s photocatalysts absorb photons and use that energy to break and form chemical bonds. A key feature of the technology is the ability to selectively activate the C–H bond in hydrocarbons, allowing the addition of CO2 in order to form carboxylic acids.

Brent Cutcliffe, Co-Founder and COO of New Iridium told Springwise, “Our light-driven approach is feasible today due to rapidly declining costs of LED technology and renewable energy which have experienced dramatic cost reductions (…) over the past 10 years, trends that are not expected to change any time soon.”

New Iridium was recently awarded a $1 million (around €937,000) National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant to further advance its photocatalysis platform. Cutliffe says the company is also “currently raising a $3 million seed round to demonstrate a 10 tonnes per year mini-plant for our leading plant-based solution for acetic acid (…) We are also advancing development of our CO2-to-chemicals platform with industry partner Braskem.”

Decarbonising the chemical manufacturing industry is an important driver of new innovations. Recently in the archive, Springwise has spotted several other advances in turning CO2 into chemicals, including a process that replaces the need for petroleum and a process that both captures carbon and produces new materials.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Watch RE:TV’s video on New Iridium here, for more information.




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