Two childhood friends spent a decade, beginning in college, figuring out how to cheaply make plastic from carbon that’s been captured from the atmosphere.
A decade ago in his Princeton dorm room, Mark Herrema had an aha moment. He read a newspaper story about the rise in heat-trapping methane emissions from dairy farms and decided to do something about it.
He thought — why not pull the carbon from the air and use it to make stuff? A politics major who also studied chemistry, he teamed up with childhood friend Kenton Kimmel,a biomedical engineering student at Northwestern University. They took odd jobs after graduation to fund their research.
“I was a bellhop and Kenton was a valet,” says Herrema, recalling how they worked 14 to 16 hours every day — even holidays — for years to pay their bills and test their ideas in rented lab space.
Industry experts told them it was a fool’s errand. For good reason. Scientists had spent decades trying to capture carbon and use it to make plastic but couldn’t do it cheaply enough. The two friends cracked the code by developing a ten-times more efficient bio-catalyst, which strips the carbon from a liquefied gas and rearranges it into a long chain plastic molecule.
The result? Today, the 31-year-old co-founders of California-based Newlight Technologies have two factories that take methane captured from dairy farms and use it to make AirCarbon — plastic that will soon appear in the form of chairs, food containers and automotive parts. Coming next year: cellphone cases for Virgin Mobile.
“You’ll be able to hold carbon in your hand,” Herrema says of the products, which an independent lab says remove more carbon from the atmosphere than their manufacturing emits. By replacing oil-based plastics, he says he wants to help reduce global warming: “We actually want to change the world.”
“This will be a paradigm shift in our industry,” says Dick Resch, CEO of furniture maker KI, saying AirCarbon will produce the first carbon-negative furniture. KI, which has backed Newlight for eight years and holds exclusive industry rights to its product, plans next year to sell AirCarbon chairs and eventually other products.
“I wish I had been smart enough to figure this out,” says William Dowd, former global director of industrial biotech research and development at Dow Chemical. He says venture capitalists asked him to look at Newlight’s work, but he initially demurred, doubting it would break ground. “I was astounded by what they were able to do.”
The Latest on: Plastic from carbon
[google_news title=”” keyword=”Plastic from carbon” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]
via Google News
The Latest on: Plastic from carbon
- Chlorophyll Water to Debut New Bottles Made from 100% Recycled Plastic with CleanFlake at Natural Products Expo Weston March 4, 2024 at 8:28 am
The transition to rPET not only reduces plastic waste, but also can reduce CO2 emissions in the process, with some studies showing that rPET can result in up to a 79% reduction in carbon emissions ...
- What will it take to make truly compostable plastic?on March 4, 2024 at 5:00 am
Materials scientists are cooking up environmentally friendly polymers from natural sources like silk, plant fibers and whole algae. Economics and acceptance remain hurdles.
- Switching From Traditional to Biodegradable Plastics Could Slash CO2 Emissionson March 3, 2024 at 4:30 am
A new study, "Replacing Traditional Plastics with Biodegradable Plastics: Impact on Carbon Emissions," has found that using biodegradable alternatives to replace traditional plastic products would ...
- Singapore to Build World’s Largest Facility that Sucks Carbon From the Seaon March 1, 2024 at 1:01 pm
A startup is zapping seawater with electricity to extract and store away carbon, but scientists remain skeptical.
- Smart sensors sort plastic waste to boost recycling and prevent carbon emissionson March 1, 2024 at 8:21 am
A new sensor system can determine the age and purity of plastic waste to improve recycling rates, according to its developers.
- This company hauls plastic waste from Indonesia’s rivers—and turns it into furnitureon March 1, 2024 at 1:00 am
Indonesia is the fourth-most-populous country in the world and the second-biggest plastic polluter after China, producing 3.2 metric tons of plastic waste annually. Many regions in the country lack ...
- UK gives £600m backing to Jim Ratcliffe’s ‘carbon bomb’ petrochemical planton February 29, 2024 at 10:07 am
The huge petrochemical plant has been described as a “carbon bomb” by campaigners. Being constructed in the Belgian city of Antwerp by Ratcliffe’s company Ineos, it will bring plastic ...
- Recycling research finds new process to transform glass fiber-reinforced plastic into silicon carbideon February 29, 2024 at 9:45 am
Glass fiber-reinforced plastic (GFRP), a strong and durable composite material, is widely used in everything from aircraft parts to windmill blades. Yet the very qualities that make it robust enough ...
- Your Inhalers and EpiPens Aren’t Very Healthy for the Environmenton February 25, 2024 at 3:59 pm
Typically manufactured from fossil fuels, plastic is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, the health sector accounts for eight percent of the country’s carbon ...
- Plastic Ingenuity Shares Progress and Trendson February 21, 2024 at 4:15 pm
Thermoformer Plastic Ingenuity has released its annual Thermoform Circularity Report with the latest findings from its Packaging Sustainability Stakeholder Study, recent achievements, and industry ...
via Bing News