Energy startup designs 'reverse coal mining' reactor that offers practical solution to air pollution: 'There wasn't enough being done'

Minnesota company Carba is helping to slow down an overheating planet by pulling its solution right from the air.

As detailed by the Star Tribune, the clean-energy startup designed a proprietary reactor that is able to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into a "charcoal-like substance," which can then be repurposed as a product or buried underground for more than a thousand years.

Chief executive and co-founder Andrew Jones described the process of returning the carbon to the Earth as "basically reverse coal mining" in an interview with Wired.

The company, which was awarded $85,000 as the winner of the 2023 MN Cup Competition, hopes to eliminate 1 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2035, the Star Tribune reported.

"Two-and-a-half years ago when I started this, I said, 'Why have we not moved further in carbon dioxide removal?" Jones told the outlet when detailing those goals in September.

"It was kind of, 'OK, the technology is ready, but are we going to do this?' Fast-forward to today, and very few credits have been delivered. I felt the need to try it myself. There wasn't enough being done," he added.

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While scientists agree that phasing out dirty energy sources is the most important part of limiting rising global temperatures to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels, carbon capture is considered an important assisting tool.

According to the World Resources Institute, scientists project that up to 10 billion tons of CO2 will need to be removed from the air each year by 2050, and a number of companies have been working on effective solutions in this regard.

"We really need to get some of these milestones to be on track for that," Jones told the Star Tribune, adding that it would be "really hard, if not impossible, to go backwards" if temperatures reach a tipping point that would severely disrupt life on Earth — already impacted by extreme weather and food insecurity linked to polluting activities from humans.

Several hurdles to adopting carbon capture on a wider scale are the expensive cost and the potential for increased water demand or contamination.

Carba says on its website, however, that its processes allow it "to offer the lowest-priced permanent carbon removal credits on the market," and its low-energy technology is able to operate without water.

The startup, which was founded in 2021, also offers different partnership opportunities for companies that are looking to reduce harmful pollution, including the option to "buy permanent carbon credits" in support of their venture.

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