03 February 2022 |

FROM THE LAB TO THE AIR 🌬️

By Nick Van Osdol

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Verdox, a new carbon capture and removal company, burst onto the scene today with $80M in funding from seminal climate tech investors like Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy and Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital.

How is Verdox’s technology, which was developed at MIT, different from other carbon capture and removal approaches?

  • For one, it’s powered purely by electricity and doesn’t require heat and water.
  • Further, other carbon capture technologies are often optimized to capture specific types of emissions. Verdox touts that its tech will be plug & play with any emissions source.

The scientific name for the process is Faradaic electro-swing reactive adsorption, which sounds like a fun dance that I’d be really bad at:

Verdox

For our purposes, the takeaway is that the CO2 capture is executed via electrochemical adhesion to a special type of plastic that Verdox designed. You can watch a helpful video on the tech here on their website. In aggregate, the company claims their tech will be 70% more energy efficient than competitor solutions.

The next steps? Verdox plans to build 3 prototypes in 2022. As to where / how they’ll store captured carbon, I assume they’ll partner with someone else on that front, in the same way that Climeworks (direct-air-capture) works with Carbfix (storage).

MY TAKE

Breakthrough Energy famously only backs startups that have a path to potential gigaton-level emissions reduction or removal solutions (billions of tons). It will be a long time before carbon removal reaches that scale. A 70% improvement in efficiency from Verdox is great, but it’ll take 700-7,000% efficiency improvements from here for carbon removal to really make a dent. 

Still, if the good folks at Breakthrough see a path to gigatonne level removals, I’m not here to fight them on the science and tech side.

The bigger takeaway for me = Verdox as a bellwether for climate tech in general. What do I mean?

It doesn’t surprise me that carbon capture and removal get the attention it does. Look at how sexy Climework’s Orca plant looks in the wild, after all!

Climework's Orca DAC plant

Climeworks

And I’m excited for a future in which carbon capture technologies act as our ace in the hole for decelerating and perhaps reversing climate change.

But… I also have a lingering feeling that investors are over-indexing on it versus more immediate opportunities to decarbonize. Our startup reference points are clearly still more ‘Silicon Valley’ than soil carbon. Food for thought.