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This Is CDR Episode 10: Carbon Fiber from CO2

This is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. This week, we have a really...

This is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. This week, we have a really interesting presentation from Aaron Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of Mars Materials.

Mars Materials uses a process called nitration to spin straw into gold, so to speak; more specifically, they can take captured carbon dioxide and turn it into carbon fiber. While it may not sound exactly like gold, carbon fiber has some pretty amazing properties of its own: it’s stronger and lighter than steel and aluminum, and can replace those materials in a variety of industrial settings. Aaron notes that steel and aluminum production make up 11 percent of global emissions. Merely replacing some of that would be a great step, but actually sequestering captured CO2 in the process would be even better. That’s what Mars Materials aims to do.

That said, there’s a long way to go. At present, producing one ton of carbon fiber can generate up to 31 tons of CO2–an energy requirement 8x to 30x higher than steel production–which Aaron rightly describes as unacceptable. But since carbon fiber is already a six-billion-dollar industry and growing, there’s a big incentive for companies to develop more efficient ways to make it. 

Aaron talks about how Mars Materials could help, going into detail about the science and economics of their project (more on that here) and the benefits of building with carbon fiber, as well as some of the problems that Aaron and others in the industry will have to solve. Be sure to watch Aaron’s excellent talk to learn more, and be sure to check back next week for more This Is CDR. Find the whole series on our resources page.

Peter Smith Peter Malamud Smith is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. In his non-OpenAir life he works as a game developer programming wizards to cast the right spells.

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