Boulder start-up to profit on atmospheric CO2 in manufacturing

Everyone loves chemistry; it’s the difference between Pero and real coffee, Morton’s and sea salt. It’s the magic between Tracy and Hepburn.

But on the larger scale, we take chemistry for granted and it’s killing us. The earth has an insidious chemical change going on through the vast majority of its surface area where the oceans meet, belly to belly, with the sky. Our skies, now laden with unusually high and accelerating levels of carbon dioxide, are tainting our oceans with carbonic acid in a process called acidification. It’s a reaction we learned about in high school chemistry class, so there’s no real debate about it. And some forms of sea life are already beginning to falter.

In the Monaco Declaration, marine scientists revealed that in as little as four decades our oceans may be too acidic to support the formation of shells, or even the plankton and corals on which our oceans’ food webs rely.

Our problem with burning fossil fuels really is the carbon dioxide, not just the climate havoc it creates, and this harm cannot be mitigated by much ballyhooed notions of geo-engineering.

Now, aren’t you ready for a little good news?

How about a plan to reduce atmospheric CO2 at industrial scale in a safe and economically attractive scheme? At New Sky Energy, a new start-up here in Boulder, a Fairview High graduate named Deane Little has developed a technology for converting waste salt (from agricultural runoff or flue gas desulfurization), processing it with water electrolysis to yield oxygen, hydrogen, a strong acid and a strong base. That last one is the key — the base naturally attracts CO2 out of the air and traps it in crystals which can be used as high-value filler for countless common products like glass, plastics, dry wall, bricks, asphalt and concrete. Those crystals can make products which are up to 40 percent stored CO2.

NewSky’s CO2 collection comes with the production of four marketable products. The sale of the oxygen, acid and base (and its CO2 compounds) can subsidize the production of the hydrogen to one-third of the price point goal set by the Department of Energy, according to Little.

Anne Butterfield, The Huffington Post, 16 November 2009. Full article.

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