Carbon capture technology targets industrial carbon emissions

Climate-tech startup Aspiring Materials has raised $1 million to further expand its carbon capture technology for reducing industrial carbon emissions.

The Christchurch-based company’s pre-seed funding round was led by Icehouse Ventures with support from Outset Ventures.

Aspiring Materials extracts mineral products from globally abundant olivine-rich silicate rocks, using one of these minerals, magnesium hydroxide, to produce a powdery material that can remove and solidify carbon dioxide at the source of emission, such as a factory’s exhaust system.

The captured carbon forms a safe carbonate substance which can be repurposed for a variety of uses from masonry construction blocks to cement additives.

Further, the company’s innovative mineral extraction method is a closed loop process with several commercially viable options available for the two other minerals produced at the same time as the magnesium hydroxide. The silica can be used to replace around a third of the Portland cement required for the production of concrete, which is currently responsible for around 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. And a third extracted mineral, iron oxide, can be onsold as a high purity raw material for iron production.

While the concept of using olivine rocks to extract magnesium for carbon sequestration has been explored for at least two decades, Aspiring co-founder and civil engineer Dr Allan Scott says nobody’s been able to figure out how to make a carbon-free and waste-free way of supplying it.

“Our method is capable of significantly reducing CO2 emissions that is not only2 environmentally-friendly, but is also scalable and profitable,” says Scott. “We’ve not found any other method out there right now that comes close.

“Other experts and scientists who’ve previously thought that carbon sequestration on a global scale was a pipe dream have reached out to us saying that we are onto something. It’s exciting to be able to move onto the next phase so we can realise our vision of building a low carbon future.”

Dr Allan Scott, Aspiring Materials co-founder and civil engineer

Scott, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Canterbury (UC) co-founded Aspiring Materials two years ago with Dr Christopher Oze, a US-based geology professor. The pair began developing the method while working together at the University of Canterbury nearly a decade ago and Oze, a New Zealand permanent resident, is planning to rejoin Scott early next year.

The funds raised will allow the growing Aspiring team to sequester larger volumes in a pre-pilot development phase within the new commercial facilities they plan to secure by February 2022.

The funds have also enabled the company to fast-track the appointment of inaugural CEO Mark Chadderton, a returning New Zealander who brings more than 20-years’ experience leading teams within global gas and energy companies. And a lab engineer joined the company this month.

Scott says their carbon capture technology is already attracting overseas interest and the funding will allow them to keep going: “We’re grateful to the team at Icehouse Ventures and Outset Ventures for backing us with the funds and support we need to scale up our science to the next phase.”

Icehouse Ventures partner Barnaby Marshall says: “Founders forging new science and engineering frontiers like Allan and Christopher are urgently needed to conquer the existential threat of climate change. Aspiring’s method represents a major advance in the ability to reduce global carbon emissions while also being scalable, sustainable, and profitable.”