Last Meeting (10/21/20)
Two weeks ago, we talked with Dr. Alexander Ip, Director of Research and Partnerships at University of Toronto and Co-founder and Director of Partnerships at CERT, a recent government backed CO2 conversion startup. Dr. Ip’s research originally began in response to the issue of efficiently storing excess solar energy during low energy usage periods (nighttime). One solution to this has been to electrolyze water into hydrogen gas which can be clean burning, an idea that Dr. Ip’s team has adapted, but instead transformed into using CO2 along with the electrolyzed water to create a hydrocarbons to store energy. Within this flow cell, at the anode, H2O is oxidized into O2 and a proton, while at the cathode, CO2 is reduced into a hydrocarbon by combining CO2 with the proton generated at the anode. The first iteration of this device produced a formic acid hydrocarbon, however, that changed to ethylene due to industry pressure.
While this device was still being created, XPrize Carbon was offering $20 million for any company that could turn flue gas stream CO2 into useful products. This is where Dr. Ip created CERT, a company that could fully pursue the idea that this prize was presenting, since his research almost perfectly aligned with the prize. Eventually after changing the flow cell into something that no longer involved dissolved solutions, and instead brought in water through a humidified CO2 stream, CERT achieved a working prototype built at a natural gas production facility. Now the company is focusing on creating ways reduce plastic creation, as in its current development from flue gas, new plastic is being created which would ultimately only increase plastic waste. The idea now is to burn recycled plastic to create the CO2 that CERT will electrolyze into virgin ethylene. As of now this process still needs a concentrated CO2 stream and doesn’t seem possible to operate off of an ambient air direct air capture device, but is one of the most successful companies to emerge from the XPrize pool.
For anyone who missed the meeting please go to the google drive > Membership > Meeting Videos and watch the general meeting 4 there !