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X-PRIZE FINALIST AIR COMPANY TURNS CO2 INTO HIGH PURITY ALCOHOLS
What happens when two Forbes 30 Under 30 meet over whisky in Israel; then meet again in Haiti to talk technology over rum? They start a company producing vodka in New York. Out of air.
That’s the short story of the co-founders of Air Company now heading the team of finalists in the NRG COSIA (Canada Oil Sands Innovation Alliance) Carbon XPRIZE. The competition is designed to accelerate new technologies that convert CO2 emissions to valuable and useable products.
Air Company – a Brooklyn, NY- based venture is turning CO2 into ultra-high purity ethanol. Their first product, Air Vodka, launched in 2019.
Each bottle of Air Vodka removes CO2 from the atmosphere – as much as eight fully grown trees.
While Air Company plans to stay in spirits, they’ll bring their green tech to every industry vertical that uses high purity alcohols, including cosmetics, household cleaning agents, hand sanitizer and fragrances.
That’s just the beginning. While the rest of us have the opportunity to sip their premium vodka martinis, Air Company is teaming up with NASA to fuel rockets.(youtu.be)
WATERTODAY had the pleasure of interviewing Co-Founder and CEO of Air Company, Greg Constantine, to learn more about the vodka to Mars journey.
Before founding Air Company, Constantine worked in the music industry. After re-locating to New York from Australia, he made his mark leading the cultural marketing at one of the world’s largest alcohol brands.
“Prior to starting Air Company, I worked for one of the largest alcohol companies in the world so I was highly aware of the problems that heritage alcohol brands and their production methods have across sustainability, design and quality,” Constantine said.
Serendipitously, when Constantine met Stafford Sheehan halfway across the globe Air Company was born.
Dr.Stafford Sheehan is internationally recognized for his research on artificial photosynthesis and carbon dioxide conversion.
“After learning of Staff’s expertise in carbon conversion as well as his technologist and environmentalist experience, we decided that our backgrounds were the perfect match-up to commercialize a technology; start a company; and create a brand that is a platform for sustainable consumer goods which help the planet.”
Air company was founded in 2018. Air Vodka was launched in 2019. Today there are 25 on the team.
Dr. Stafford Sheehan developed the technology(youtu.be) that converts carbon dioxide into alcohols and oversees production of Air Company’s products as Chief Technology Officer.
“We’re inventing the future one product at a time.”
Sheehan and Constantine focused on the planet’s most vexing problem and have turned a negative into a positive.
Their process is inspired by photosynthesis in Nature. Plants take in CO2 and water and use energy from the sun to create sugars and other organic hydrocarbons.
“We invented a way to take excess carbon from the air and turn it into ultra-refined alcohol, disrupting every category we enter, starting with spirits.
“We wanted to create a product that was proof of our technology so that we could allow the world into the possibilities of carbon technology. By creating a product that you can touch, taste, see and hold, we are able to bring people into the world of Air and show them what can be possible when merging creativity with technology.”
Air Company’s technology transforms carbon dioxide captured from the air or concentrated point sources into impurity-free ethyl alcohol.
“Our technology uses only air (CO2), water, and sunlight as inputs.”
The Air Company Technology uses only air, water and sunlight.
The overall approach starts by generating electricity from sunlight using solar energy to power the conversion system. The conversion system then breaks apart captured carbon dioxide and water using an electrolyzer that splits water to produce green hydrogen.
“The hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide over our proprietary and patented catalysts to produce alcohol, with oxygen as the only byproduct.”
The process removes 1.5 kgs of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per kg of alcohol produced.
Constantine adds that every aspect of the packaging is 100% recyclable and reusable. All labels are adhered to using custom natural, non-toxic adhesive that allows them to be removed with ease so the glass bottle can be repurposed.
“Our products positively impact the environment because they are made from excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so we call them goods that do good! The minimalistic design and packaging for Air Vodka mimics that spirit is impurity-free and the cleanest spirt on the planet.”
In keeping with the Team’s basic philosophy of ‘goods that do good’, Constantine adds, “We know that we can’t solve climate change alone, so partnerships are at the forefront of what we do. We want to work with like-minded individuals and brands to help inspire others and create a cleaner and more equitable future.”
Air Studio and Air Ventures are the Company’s partnerships and collaborations platforms.
Building on Sheehan’s research (article published by Stafford W. Sheehan Feb 2021 DOI Electrochemical Methane Production From CO2 For Orbital and Interplanetary Refueling), the Company has created a business unit within Air Company – Air Stellar--focusing on utilizing CO2 conversion technology in outer space.
The vision of humans inhabiting Mars is moving closer to becoming a reality.
“The Martian atmosphere is 95.32% carbon dioxide, making it the perfect location for carbon conversion technology like our own,” Constantine said.
“We can use our proprietary technology for a variety of applications on Mars, including the production of both glucose to help feed the astronauts on the red planet, among many other things, and sustainable rocket fuel which can be used to get our astronauts home.”
And speaking of home...
“We’re working toward a cleaner and more equitable planet. Over the next several years, we’re focused on scaling our technology globally to be the world’s leading carbon technology company to achieve our CO2 capture and mitigation goals.”
Air Company recently built a scaled-up demonstration plant in Ontario.
“We plan to continue to expand throughout the continent to continue our CO2 reduce our carbon footprint.”
“The science of anthropogenic climate change is one of the greatest challenges our planet faces today and is exacerbated by our reliance on burning fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plants continue to sequester CO2 as they have for billions of years using photosynthesis. However, human kind is releasing CO2 at a rate that is too fast for plants to keep up. This is the reason we at Air Company developed a process that mimics photosynthesis --but is both faster and more efficient at keeping our air clean.” -- www.aircompany.com
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