This startup turns CO2 into the same compounds as petrochemicals


Your private home is full of fossil fuels in the type of petrochemicals, used to make the whole lot from the foam in your sneakers to your yoga mat, shampoo, make-up, and extra—together with laundry detergent, plastic packaging, aspirin, toys, home equipment, garments, audio system, bike tires, photo voltaic panels, the veneer on picket furnishings, and the paint in your partitions. By one estimate, the chemical compounds are in a minimum of 6,000 merchandise; the actual quantity is probably going a lot bigger.

In the Bay Space, a startup referred to as Twelve is creating know-how that makes a few of the same chemical compounds from captured CO2 as a substitute of crude oil, gasoline, or coal. Producers can use the CO2-based chemical compounds in precisely the same means that they used petrochemicals. “They’ll be an identical to standard merchandise [but] constructed from recycled emissions,” says Nicholas Flanders, cofounder and CEO.

The corporate, which simply introduced that it raised $57 million in Collection A funding, is one in all the first to commercialize a course of referred to as synthetic photosynthesis. Impressed by the means crops flip CO2, water, and daylight into carbon, the firm makes use of renewable electrical energy and water to make carbon from CO2. That carbon could be turned into merchandise like ethylene, a primary ingredient in making plastic.

Twelve Lab 1
[Photo: Courtesy Twelve]

“Mainly, we use electrical energy to interrupt aside CO2 and water,” Flanders says. “After which our catalysts, that are a part of our core know-how, recombine these atomic bits to make new molecules.”


Improvement of synthetic photosynthesis know-how started in universities in the Sixties, but it surely’s been difficult to make it possible at an industrial scale. It’s laborious to make the course of energy-efficient and to make particular merchandise; and it’s tough to scale up the know-how. In the previous, scientists have used gadgets that convert photo voltaic power and cut up water in a single cell. Twelve’s system separates the two steps, which makes the know-how extra environment friendly and scalable; the firm calls its course of industrial photosynthesis. The catalysts that it’s created can be utilized in an current reactor that was developed for making inexperienced hydrogen, so the firm doesn’t have to start out from scratch with utterly new equipment.

Final 12 months, the firm labored with Mercedes-Benz to make the first-ever auto half from recycled CO2. “What’s attention-grabbing is a brand new automotive incorporates about 300 kilograms of polymers, and just about all of these we will make from CO2,” Flanders says. “That’s going to be true even for an electrical automotive.” Twelve can be working with Proctor & Gamble on CO2-made components for Tide laundry detergent. Many firms are desirous about easy methods to use fewer petrochemicals to decrease their carbon footprints; the shopper items large Unilever, for instance, has dedicated to part out petrochemicals in cleansing merchandise by the finish of the decade.

Twelve Lab 5
[Photo: Courtesy Twelve]

Making merchandise from CO2, Flanders says, doesn’t change the efficiency of the materials in any respect, so a last product like laundry detergent or a pair of trainers shall be precisely the same as earlier than. Corporations can work with current chemical suppliers, who will add a tool referred to as an electrochemical reactor to their manufacturing traces. “Mainly, from someday to the subsequent, they will abruptly have a CO2 influence and cut back the quantity of fossil carbon that’s of their merchandise, with none trade-offs in high quality or efficiency,” he says. After they’re produced at scale, the firm says that the new chemical compounds will compete in value with standard chemical compounds constructed from fossil fuels. The startup additionally plans to make different merchandise from CO2; carbon-negative jet gasoline, for instance, might assist the airline business, because it isn’t but possible to make a big aircraft that may run straight on electrical energy.

Twelve makes one other “carbon transformation” gadget that may be added to industrial websites which can be already capturing CO2. “We might take their CO2 and remodel it again into helpful merchandise earlier than it ever reaches the air,” Flanders says. The startup (previously referred to as Opus 12) has small pilot initiatives with the fossil gasoline firms ShellRepsol, and SoCalGas, all of that are searching for methods to cut back emissions in their very own manufacturing beneath strain from traders and the looming menace of stricter coverage. Ultimately, Twelve might additionally use CO2 sourced from direct air seize know-how that sucks the local weather pollutant from the ambiance.

“We’re not going to do away with carbon-based supplies,” Flanders says. “They’re throughout us. However we will get that carbon in a greater means. You don’t want to make use of fossil carbon to get it.”