Author – Wricha Mishra
Our dependence on fossil fuels has vastly increased levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change considers CO2 removal technologies to be the need of the hour. Technologies to capture carbon dioxide have been around since the 1970s, but they had not gained commercial acceptance due to high costs. Initially, these technologies only focused on carbon capture and storage (CCS), but some recent innovations have introduced another carbon capture & utilization technology, where carbon emissions are turned into something useful. Particularly in India where carbon emissions are still rising, carbon capture & utilization technologies have great potential in reducing emissions in steel, cement, coal and other energy-intensive industries.
Experts have deemed carbon capture to be as important as renewable energy today. They estimate that capturing usable CO2 can mitigate 5-10% of the world’s emissions from coal. Although this is not huge in itself, it could give steady benefits in the long run. Further, the carbon credit system has made this technology even more promising since carbon emissions saved by one company can be sold to another. This provides double the incentive for companies to adopt this eco-friendly carbon capture & utilization technology. A lot of efforts are being taken in Canada, Germany and Netherlands to introduce carbon capture technology in their industries, but there are very few activities in India.
CO2 capture by Carbon Clean Solutions
Two IIT undergraduates, Aniruddha Sharma and Prateek Bumb realized this huge market for carbon removal technology and decided to work on it. They created a company named Carbon Clean Solutions for developing a technology to capture CO2 from industrial flue gases. Their technology uses proprietary solvents to dissolve the CO2 present in gaseous effluents. In, most carbon capture technologies, the exhaust gases are treated with monoethanolamine (MEA) to selectively remove CO2 from the mixture. When the MEA- CO2 mixture is heated, pure CO2 is released which can be used as a raw material. However, MEA is highly corrosive so building a plant is costly and requires high maintenance.
Carbon Clean Solutions technology uses a new chemical catalyst called CDR-Max, which is far more efficient and less expensive than MEA. Thus, this chemical reaction requires lesser energy to capture CO2. The results from the testing revealed that 90% of the CO2 from the effluents could be easily removed through their technology. The captured carbon can be sold to chemical plants that require CO2 as a raw material.
Aniruddha Sharma and Prateek Bumb presented their innovation in the IIT IDEAS competition won the third prize. soon they got a mentor who gave them the required seed capital with which they founded Carbon Clean Solutions. They have partnered with the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai and set up a pilot plant. Currently, Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals, EON Benelux, Netherlands, and Solvay Chemicals, India are using Carbon Clean Solutions’ technology to produce soda ash from carbon dioxide.
Kaalink by Graviky Labs
A Bengaluru based company found a way to tackle the air pollution problem by separating the carbon soot from the particulate matter and using it to make ink. Graviky Labs, which was founded by MIT Media Lab alumnus Anirudh Sharma with Nikhil Kaushik and Nitesh Kadyan, came up with the idea of converting vehicular exhaust into ink. The technology called ‘Kaalink’ captures carbon-based exhaust particles even before it is released into the environment.
The Kaalink adaptor can be fit onto diesel generators, chimney stacks, vehicle tailpipes and biogas burning chimneys. The captured carbon goes through rounds of purification and chemical processes to finally form a variety of paints and inks. From this carbon powder, Graviky Labs developers produce ‘Air-Ink’, 100% carbon-neutral ink manufactured by the upcycling of carbon. Around 45 minutes of air pollution can be captured into 30 ml of ink! Graviky has partnered with International artists to cover walls of cities with street art made using their upcycled ink.
StrataEnviro’s Air Pollution Controllers
Strata Enviro is a Pune-based company that manufactures and installs outdoor air pollution controllers in public places. Strata Enviro was founded by Amol Chaphekar in 2016. This innovation by StrataEnviro Pvt Ltd consists of outdoor air pollution controller units that filter polluted air. These units have been installed for free at heavily polluted areas such as industries, traffic junctions, fuel pumps and airports. The units are internet-enabled and they can suck in polluted air to filter out particulate matter, smog, odour, etc. The pollution controller unit provides a display for the sponsor at the top of the unit, which ensures that the unit’s maintenance is taken care of. It is currently being used in 100 cities across India and rapidly expanding its niche.