U of Calgary spin-off company short-listed for $25-million prize

Carbon Engineering’s “Air capture” among few technologies that reduce CO2 from mobile sources.

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by Design Engineering Staff

11-oct-carbon-engineering-co2-capture-2-360A company created from a University of Calgary-affiliated scientist’s research, and located on campus, is a finalist in a $25-million international competition to capture global-warming carbon emissions from thin air.

Carbon Engineering, a private firm created by David Keith, is the only Canadian finalist among more than 2,500 entries in the Virgin Earth Challenge, founded by Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.

The Virgin Earth Challenge offers a $25-million prize for the first entrepreneur to establish a safe technology and commercial business to capture carbon from thin air. ‘Air capture’ is touted as one of a few technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions from the distributed and mobile sources, such as vehicles and airplanes, which emit more than half of greenhouse gases.

Keith is a fellow in the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE) and an adjunct professor of physics. He joined Harvard University as a professor this September 1, but maintains a strong collaboration with the university.

His work on climate science, energy technology and public policy spans 20 years. For his work, he was awarded first prize in Canada’s national physics prize exam, MIT’s prize for excellence in experimental physics, and listed as one of TIME magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2009.

Carbon Engineering is currently operating a prototype air capture machine on the University of Calgary campus, at a site near the physical plant. The 30-ton prototype is designed to test the key technical innovations behind the company’s air contactor designs. The machine will run several more weeks this fall and continuously next summer, to accumulate operational experience and run-time.