EIT RawMaterials-supported project consortium specialising in energy storage development has launched a two-year pilot program to design and build a scalable shipping container synthesis reactor that is capable of transforming CO2 emissions into graphite, a mineral now classified by the EU as a critical raw material, and various carbon nanomaterials. The innovative project called CO2Carbon secured an investment in the amount of €1.59 million and is led by Estonian technology start-up UP Catalyst.

Until now, 500 thousand tons of graphite has been imported by the EU to fulfil the ever-growing need for energy storage solutions and electric vehicle batteries. This technology is evidence of how Europe is applying innovative technologies to reduce Europe’s dependencies on raw materials from abroad, contributing to theEU’s needs to meet its greenhouse gas emission targets by 2030.

The goal of the consortium, consisting of world-renowned research institutes and leading industry partners, is to revolutionise shipping containers as they are one of the most scalable technology units and can be easily transported globally. The benefit is two-fold, the CO2 will be captured and turned into extremely valuable products. Currently, these materials are produced from fossil fuels with an enormous environmental footprint and impact. This technology contributes directly to the circular economy as it closes economic loops within the raw material industry.

The outcome of this proposal would be an automated pilot shipping container that absorbs 10 tons of CO2and produces 2 700 kg of sustainable carbon materials per year, with a potential revenue of 2.7 million EUR per year. A pilot project such as this will accelerate the progress towards even larger scale CO2 splitting operations by creating knowledge and understanding of the processes taking place when splitting CO2electrochemically at such a large scale.

UP Catalyst solution for producing sustainable graphite

Dr Olli Salmi, Innovation Hub Director Baltic Sea at EIT RawMaterials, says: “The CO2Carbon is a perfect example of the different support instruments in EIT RawMaterials combined towards a common goal. The project coordinator, UP Catalyst, has won rewards in the EIT Jumpstarter idea competition, grown in the RawMaterials Accelerator, and is now ready to upscale its technology together with industry and university partners. The idea of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into EV battery chemicals will directly contribute to the EU goals in climate neutrality and circular economy.”

The consortium was called upon by UP Catalyst in January 2021, which is also serving as the technology owner and project leader. Additionally, the project was joined by Riga Technical University (RTU) carrying out the industrial design of the synthesis reactor; Research Institute of Sweden (RISE) performing the industrial pilot construction, certification and life-cycle assessment analysis; University of Bologna (UNIBO) characterising and testing the produced sustainable carbon materials for the use in electrodes for Li-ion batteries; Univercell Holding GmbH producing electrodes and cells based on Li-ion technology and Bettery Srl whose mission is developing and bringing next-generation sustainable semi-solid state batteries to the market.

The revolutionary project titled CO2Carbon will scale up technology that turns CO2 from heavy industry emitters into valuable carbon nanomaterials and graphite to produce greener batteries.

Dr Gary Urb, CEO of UP Catalyst, stated: “The global cumulative energy storage market is set to grow 20 times by 2030, and we will be needing over 50 times more batteries by the same year.”

Due to stringent EU regulations on the one hand and increasing global concern for the environment on the other forces everyone to look for more sustainable solutions to meet the increasing demand for energy storage. Within the CO2Carbon project, a scalable shipping container synthesis pilot reactor will be designed and built. This unit will increase the sustainable carbon nanomaterial production capacity to ton-scale per year and is further easily scalable to larger capacities to provide nanocarbons that will be manufactured into sustainable batteries.

The project relies on UP Catalyst’s innovative technology of molten salt carbon capture and electrochemical transformation (MSCC-ET), which makes it possible to start producing carbon materials close to industry sites and energy plants that emit enormous amounts of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. Furthermore, the developed technology also enables battery materials to be produced from biogenic CO2, which will improve the environmental performance of the battery value chain.

All the developments and milestones of the project can be found on the website www.co2carbon.eu from June 2022.

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