Estonian start-up UP Catalyst secures EUR 1.59 million to turn CO2 from heavy industry emitters into graphite
Lead by Estonian startup UP Catalyst, a two-year pilot program was launched to design and build a scalable shipping container synthesis reactor that is capable of transforming CO2 emissions into graphite, a mineral now classified by the EU as a critical raw material, and various carbon nanomaterials.
By Teele Niidas
Until now, 500 thousand tons of graphite, has been imported by the EU to fulfil the ever-growing need for energy storage solutions. This technology is evidence of how Europe is applying innovative technologies to reduce Europe’s dependencies on raw materials from abroad, contributing to the EU’s needs to meet its greenhouse gas emission targets by 2030.
The goal of the project, consisting of world-renowned research institutes and leading industry partners, is to revolutionize shipping containers as they are one of the most scalable technology units and can be easily transported globally. The benefit is two-fold, the CO2 will be captured and turned into extremely valuable products. Currently, these materials are produced from fossil fuels with an enormous environmental footprint and impact. This technology contributes directly to the circular economy as it closes economic loops within the raw material industry.
Dr Olli Salmi, Innovation Hub Director Baltic Sea at EIT RawMaterials, a project partner, says in a press release:
“The CO2Carbon is a perfect example of the different support instruments in EIT RawMaterials combined towards a common goal. The project coordinator, UP Catalyst, has won rewards in the EIT Jumpstarter idea competition, grown in the RawMaterials Accelerator, and is now ready to upscale its technology together with industry and university partners. The idea of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into EV battery chemicals will directly contribute to the EU goals in climate neutrality and circular economy.”
The consortium was called upon by Estonian technology start-up UP Catalyst in January 2021, which is also serving as the technology owner and project leader.
Carbon capture technology for shipping
Due to stringent EU regulations on the one hand and increasing global concern for the environment on the other forces everyone to look for more sustainable solutions to meet the increasing demand for energy storage. Within the CO2Carbon project, a scalable shipping container synthesis pilot reactor will be designed and built. This unit will increase the sustainable carbon nanomaterial production capacity to ton-scale per year and is further easily scalable to larger capacities to provide nanocarbons that will be manufactured into sustainable batteries.
The project relies on UP Catalyst’s innovative technology of molten salt carbon capture and electrochemical transformation (MSCC-ET), which makes it possible to start producing carbon nanomaterials close to industry sites and energy plants that emit enormous amounts of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. Furthermore, the developed technology also enables battery materials to be produced from biogenic CO2, which will improve the environmental performance of the battery value chain.