A Material Thinner Than Human Hair Could Slash Carbon Emissions
(Bloomberg) -- Osmoses, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, has created a membrane material thinner than human hair to reduce carbon emissions from industrial processes such as natural gas production.
Today, businesses use an energy-intensive technique called separation to filter out the valuable methane from other gases. That often requires using fossil fuels to boil off the unwanted chemicals — a process that can account for as much as 15% of world energy demand, according to a 2016 study.
Instead, Osmoses uses membranes thinner than 1 millionth-of-a-meter — made from carbon and hydrogen — that can remove the unwanted molecules using as much as 60% less energy than a conventional process, said Francesco Maria Benedetti, the startup’s chief executive officer.
“We envision applying our technology to increase the sustainability of existing infrastructure,” said Benedetti, a post-doctoral associate at MIT. He and co-founder Holden Lai, who’s also chief technology officer, started the company as a collaboration between MIT and the lab at Stanford University, where Lai was a post-doctoral fellow.
Cutting emissions now is crucial if nations are going to meet long-term goals set at the ongoing COP26 climate summit in Scotland.
The company raised $3 million more in a pre-seed funding round led by the Engine, a venture capital firm started by MIT that’s an existing investor. That funding will help the company build a prototype that can work in the real world. Its goal is to have the membrane installed by the end of 2023 and, if that goes as planned, the company would look to raise more money to commercialize their product.
The first application could be used to help capture CO2 emissions from industry. Osmoses’s membrane could help dramatically bring down the cost of purifying oxygen. Using that oxygen would increase the efficiency of burning fossil fuels in power generation, steel making or glass manufacturing. That also makes it easier, and potentially cheaper, to capture and store those emissions.
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