Investment is flooding into the climate tech space, with solutions for carbon emissions drawing focus and funding.
A growing trend sees businesses pledging elimination of their carbon emissions using carbonomics, with some—like Unilever, Amazon and Microsoft—even launching their own climate funds to accelerate and scale promising technology solutions.
One idea that is gaining traction is direct air capture (DAC) which sucks in air and removes the CO2. In September 2021, the Canadian clean energy company Carbon Engineering will begin operations from its prototype DAC plant in Squamish, British Columbia, removing a metric ton of CO2 from the air annually. Ultimately the company hopes to scale this to 1 million metric tons per year. Other companies are also working on DAC, including the Swiss company Climeworks, which currently operates 15 plants across Europe, and New York-based Global Thermostat which has pilot plants in California.
DAC is expensive, and researchers have forecasted that we may need thousands of plants like this. Yet such solutions may be essential. According to the World Resources Institute, most climate models suggest that we need to remove billions of metric tons of CO2 by 2050 and ramp up emission reductions.
For individuals hoping to do their bit to reduce emissions, the concept of ‘living clothes’ could make it as easy as pulling on a T-shirt. The London-based start-up Post Carbon Lab has developed a photosynthetic living coating for clothing. Derived from algae and cyanobacteria, it absorbs carbon and emits oxygen. As co-founder Dian-Jen Lin explained to The Guardian, a T-shirt made from one square meter of coated material could produce as much oxygen as a six-year-old oak tree. The start-up is working to commercialize the coating, which could be applied to a host of products in the future, from umbrellas to building canopies.
The Canadian Iranian multidisciplinary designer Roya Aghighi is also developing algae-based photosynthetic fabrics. Following a successful proof of concept in 2018, she is working on a second round of research with the Netherlands-based Materials Experience Lab at the Delft University of Technology. The project, dubbed Biogarmentry: Living Textiles, is supported by Canadian athleticwear brand Lululemon and could be commercially viable in five to seven years.
Read more about emerging solutions to the climate crisis in The Climate Tech Boom trend section of “Regeneration Rising: Sustainability Futures.”
Main image: Biogarmentry, courtesy of Roya Aghighi, Multidisciplinary Designer/Researcher.