Since the Industrial Revolution, mass amounts of carbon dioxide have accumulated in the atmosphere. While natural cycles draw down carbon dioxide, the process can take anywhere from 300 to 1,000 years. With emissions on the rise, technologies that capture and store atmospheric CO2 will become an important part of efforts to decarbonize globally.
There are a variety of approaches to draw down CO2. Living Carbon is using synthetic algae strains to sequester carbon more productively. Lithos Carbon covers farmlands with a thin layer of crushed basalt, a mineral that reacts with rainwater to capture CO2 from the air while improving soil health.
Other companies employ a strategy called direct air capture, or DAC. Their technologies often rely on liquid solutions or solid sorbents that act as sponges for carbon dioxide. Once captured, CO2 can be separated from the filter or liquid solution with the application of heat.
DAC is a promising form of emissions reduction technology though it is often criticized for being too energy intensive (and therefore the energy use negates some of the emissions reductions) to be viable.
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Based out of Israel, RepAir Carbon has developed a unique DAC technology that operates without heat and can be used to capture carbon dioxide at a gigaton scale. The company uses a battery-inspired, electrochemical device that separates out CO2 using only electricity and a selective membrane. The outputted carbon dioxide can be used to create synthetic fuels, to increase greenhouse production, or it can simply be stored in the ground.
RepAir’s DAC technology has a number of upsides. Like other DAC methods, it does not require much land or water use, thus avoiding any of the potential consequences of interacting with natural cycles at scale. For example, it is unclear how spreading basalt over farmlands will affect stream and river systems through runoff.
Additionally, RepAir’s DAC devices can be placed anywhere. This allows for its units to be placed near CO2 storage or utilization sites. Alternatively, RepAir DAC units could be installed near wind turbines or solar fields to supply the needed electrical current. One major challenge with renewables is their variability. When excess energy is produced, the electricity could be used to draw down CO2 rather than being stored in a battery.
Finally, RepAir has positioned itself to be economically feasible by creating units that are modular. This allows for direct air capture systems that can grow incrementally as needed with less financial risk.
Although the market for carbon offsets is still developing, RepAir was able to demonstrate its worth to investors and win the capital necessary to get off the ground. In 2021, RepAir won support from ESIL and Counteract in the form of a $1.5M seed round. The company continued to catch the eye of investors in 2022, winning its first purchase of carbon removal from Frontier. The purchase was for 199 tons of carbon dioxide.
RepAir was one of six carbon removal companies that received contracts. The funding came from Stripe, which invested an initial $2.5M in removed CO2, with another $5.4M distributed if they are able to reach agreed-upon technical milestones.
With this purchase, RepAir has the opportunity to show that its technology can be an integral part of drawing CO2 from the atmosphere at scale.
Luke Brennan is a writer and software developer originally from Pittsburgh.