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By A.J. Roan
For Metal Tech News 

Carbon Upcycling to tackle climate issues

Canadian company captures CO2 to enhance nanomaterials Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – May 27, 2020

Series: Prospect Mining Studio | Story 5

Last updated 6/27/2020 at 6:14am

capturing carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plant upcycling

Garry Whitton; Adobe Stock

Carbon Upcycling is developing a system that converts emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants into carbon nanomaterials for concrete, plastics and other uses.

Up next on the cohort of companies included in the Prospect Mining Studio lineup is Carbon Upcycling Technologies; a company that believes carbon is a resource, not a problem, and is developing a system that could lead to new methods of transforming emissions into carbon nanoparticle additives for commercial applications.

By utilizing carbon dioxide emissions to cultivate nanoparticles that can enhance materials like concrete, plastics and batteries, the Calgary, Alberta-based company seeks to convert CO2 from a global warming liability into a societal asset, by showing its potential in a wide range of applications.

CUT uses an intellectual property (IP)-protected process to react waste CO2 with solid feedstock, such as graphite, petroleum coke (petcoke) or fly ash to create stable, solid nanoparticles.

"Carbon Upcycling Technologies is basically based on a chemical absorption process. What that means is we take low-grade carbon, something like graphite or coke or coal and we create surface area on that so that it absorbs CO2," said Carbon Upcycling Technologies CEO Apoorv Sinha.

"The analogy that we've always tried to use is like a piece of cheese, usually you think about it having holes, you know that's kind of the stereotypical piece of cheese but think about the piece of cheese in our process being a monolith, with no holes going in but when it comes out of the process it's got all these little holes which are now entrapping CO2," he added.

The newly reinforced carbon nanomaterials can then be added to a wide variety of materials to make the materials stronger or more efficient.

Take fly ash for example, a byproduct of burning coal in electric power plants, is an abundant material used in many cement-based products, such as poured concrete, blocks and bricks.

Currently, more than 50% of concrete poured in the U.S. contains fly ash.

With Carbon Upcycling's technology, the fly ash residue in its fine powder form would be fed into their reactors and then is pressurized with gaseous CO2. The result of this incredible process is the bonding of excess emissions to the already similar carbon material thus creating a new result.

A future of climate change may be found in not just combating CO2 emissions with clean energy but actually capturing those emissions to be used in new technologies themselves.

The advancement of carbon capture, use, and storage technologies may very well be the next stage in meeting climate change goals.

Carbon Upcycling, which has completed over 12 different technical validations of its products' performance, is one among many companies around the world currently developing new systems and methods for utilizing CO2, rather than seeking methods to eliminate it entirely.

Through their system, CUT has managed to enhance several fundamental additives, from their enhanced fly ash (EFA) which is purported to increase the compressive strength of concrete by up to 32% to conventional fly ash products.

The forward-thinking technology company has also developed a nucleating agent to improve polyethylene, one of the most abundant types of plastics in the world, that could open the doors for further 3D printing methods.

CUT has even experimented with using this in polyethylene solar panel coatings and lithium manganese oxide batteries, both seeing a result of varying improvements.

The nanoparticles have so far shown beneficial functional performances in concrete, plastics, ceramic and epoxy coatings, adhesives, 3D printing filaments, pharmaceutical drug delivery, lubrication, energy storage, and solar cell applications.

Fly ash from burning coal can be upgraded to useable solid carbon materials

Carbon Upcycling Inc.

Fly ash, a natural trap for carbon dioxide, gets upgraded to a nanomaterial, during the Carbon Upcycling process.

"When it comes to the CO2 challenge, in the last few decades, everyone has always had a step where you release the CO2 back because the piece of cheese with that CO2 in it, no one wants that," said Sinha. "What's different about our process is that you can actually use that filler with the CO2 in place as a reinforcing agent for polymers, so plastics, for concrete products, as well as for asphalt and coatings."

Carbon Upcycling has made it their goal to not only tackle the current climate issue but aims to deliver a carbon negative future at scale.

The company has received support from a strong group of commercial, government and academic partners including Canadian National Research Council, Natural Resources Canada, and Alberta Innovates.

With these efforts being made to utilize materials with new methods and to approach problems from a new angle, the innovation itself may be just the thing to get the ball rolling for all climate change technologies.


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