New technology focus: C02 to fuel

by Antonio Pasolini on October 31, 2008

A Santa Barbara-based developer of technology to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into gasoline and other fuels earlier this week announced that it anticipates the completion of a prototype that will demonstrate its biocatalytic CO2 to fuel process by Q1 2009.

Carbon Sciences‘ technology is based on emulating certain metabolic strategies employed by living organisms where fuel molecules (hydrocarbons) are assembled from CO2 and H20 (water) through low energy biocatalytic processes. These natural biocatalytic processes occur under mild conditions due to low temperature and low pressure. The company’s technology allows these processes to operate on a very large industrial scale through advance nano-engineering of the biocatalysts and highly efficient process design.

“The prototype under development is a flexible laboratory scale setup comprising three primary sections: (1) Gas treatment section, (2) Biocatalytic reaction chamber, and (3) Fuel separation and collection chamber. It is also equipped with in-line sampling and analysis equipment to provide real-time information of process streams. We expect that the stream of CO2 can be transformed into a flammable liquid fuel”, said Dr. Naveed Aslam, inventor of the company’s technology and chief technology advisor. “Our innovation is in the biocatalytic formulation and process that induce the biocatalysts to perform their natural function of assembling hydrocarbon molecules from CO2 and H20. The commercial viability challenge is lowering the manufacturing cost of the fuel by enabling the biocatalyst to go through many cycles before replacement. To address that challenge, we are developing a proprietary nanoparticle structure around the biocatalysts, which we expect to be available in the second version of the prototype,” added Dr. Aslam.

According to Carbon Sciences’ CEO, Derek McLeish, the company’s CO2-to-fuel process is linearly scalable, that is, if it works at the prototype level then there is a very good chance it’ll work at a large scale. “When the prototype is completed, we will intensify our business development efforts. Our ultimate goal is to license this technology to oil and gas companies and large CO2 emitters”, said Mr. McLeish.

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