Innovation That Matters

The technology uses CO2 to make chemicals | Photo source Twelve

Startup makes chemicals from recycled CO2 emissions


With the new technology, Twelve aims to motivate companies to invest in capturing their CO2 emissions

Spotted: California-based carbon transformation startup Twelve is developing technology that uses CO2 to make chemicals, instead of crude oil, gas or coal. These CO2-based chemicals can be used in the same way petrochemicals are, and according to the company, the process eliminates emissions by turning CO2 into essential products. 

“They’ll be identical to conventional products [but] made from recycled emissions,” says Nicholas Flanders, Twelve’s co-founder and CEO. 

Fifty-seven million US dollars have recently been raised in Series A funding. The process is called artificial photosynthesis and essentially replicates the process through which plants break down CO2, water, and sunlight and turns them into carbon. Likewise, to make carbon from CO2, Twelve relies on renewable electricity. The resulting carbon can then be transformed into other molecules such as ethylene, which can then be used to make a plethora of materials, from alternative fuels to plastics. 

“One product, for example, is jet fuel and you can imagine using that jet fuel in commercial flights,” Cave says. “Another product we make is polycarbonate polymer. The lenses in most sunglasses and eyeglasses are made from that now. We can make that from CO2”, Twelve told Yale Climate Connections.  

Last year, Twelve collaborated with Mercedes-Benz to create the first-ever auto part from recycled CO2. They are also working with Proctor & Gamble to make Tide laundry detergent with ingredients made from CO2. According to Fast Company, small pilot projects are also in place with the fossil fuel companies Shell, Repsol, and SoCalGas to reduce emissions in their own processes. 

Twelve has already built a small version of its technology, with the next step being to build bigger units and estimate the cost viability of scale. 

Written By: Katrina Lane

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