Five Innovative Climate Tech Startups Tackling the Carbon Crisis

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Sara Friedman
Sara Friedman

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Warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, and rising sea levels are just a few of the many troubling symptoms of climate change. 

And a major cause of the warming planet is excess carbon dioxide. Human activities have raised the CO2 level in the atmosphere by 50% in less than 200 years. Of all greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide represents the majority at 65%

To slow down global warming, scientists and entrepreneurs are working on innovative solutions for curbing global CO2 emissions.

According to reports, more than a quarter of all venture capital funding in 2022 went to climate tech, totaling $260B in investments since 2018.

 And the funding will likely continue to pour in, with eight out of 10 investors reporting plans to increase investments in environmental, social, and governance projects between 2022 and 2024.

Only the most innovative startups will win that funding, though, and the competition is stiff. Below, we dig into five innovative climate tech startups solving for the carbon crisis:

1. Phykos

Since limiting the human activities that lead to carbon dioxide emissions seems nearly impossible, startup Phykos is focusing instead on a creative way to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Founded in 2020, Phykos focuses on our oceans, building on natural marine carbon cycles to remove excess CO2. To do this, the startup cultivates seaweed before sinking it into the depths of the ocean, a process that mimics natural coastal seaweed beds. 

Seaweed is grown on robotic platforms that use algorithms to migrate with changing ocean conditions and optimize growth. Photosynthesis converts dissolved carbon dioxide into organic carbon embodied in the seaweed. 

The seaweed, when ready, is harvested from the growth platforms and sunk deep into the ocean (more than 1.5k meters), carrying the absorbed carbon with it for 1k years of carbon sequestration. This naturally removes carbon from the atmosphere without disturbing ocean environments and can help clean, cool, and de-acidify ocean water while providing a habitat for marine life. 

2. Remora Carbon

With transportation as one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions (27%), startups innovating in the sector have the potential to make an outsized impact on the environment. 

Remora Carbon, founded in 2020, is focusing on the trucking industry with devices that bolt onto any tractor-trailer model to filter carbon emissions directly from the truck’s tailpipe and capture 80% of emissions. 

Dirty exhaust flows into the filter and clean air flows out, with the removed CO2 compressed and stored in onboard tanks. Drivers can dump the CO2 by connecting the device to an offload tank with a hose (tanks will be installed within truck stops). 

When a tank fills up, Remora Carbon sells it to concrete producers or other end users who are able to store it indefinitely (they split that revenue with customers to help the product pay for itself). Ultimately, the startup aims to put the CO2 back underground in EPA-certified injection wells, where it can be stored permanently. 

3. Living Carbon

For Living Carbon, the answer to climate change is already growing in the ground. 

Founded in 2019, the San Francisco biotechnology startup develops genetically modified seedlings that can be planted and grown to produce more wood while absorbing increased amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

The startup has already planted 600 photosynthesis-enhanced trees for its four-year partnership with Oregon State University and has more than 3k carbon projects secured with private landowners in the US.

Through biotechnology, Living Carbon develops seedlings that can grow more than 50% faster than non-modified seedlings and can capture more than twice the carbon per acre. 

The trees are also engineered to be able to grow on land with high nickel and copper concentrations (found in places like abandoned mine sites) and to naturally accumulate the metals and remove them from the soil. 

4. Carbon Limit

While the cement industry is responsible for at least 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, concrete could actually help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Carbon Limit, founded in 2020, is manufacturing a cement replacement made of materials that are highly selective and reactive to CO2, making it able to absorb carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the concrete, where it can no longer damage the environment. 

The company’s “Capturecrete” can pave roads and construct buildings just as traditional cement would, but it’s able to perform decarbonization, as trees would, even in urban areas. 

5. Universal Hydrogen 

We’ve all heard plenty about how much celebrities love flying their private jets, but there might actually be a way to make aviation safe for the environment. 

Universal Hydrogen’s goal is to reduce the aviation industry’s carbon emissions while keeping flying affordable for the masses. The company, founded in 2020, plans to do so by making it possible for commercial airplanes to fly using only hydrogen. 

The kit can be used with commercial airplanes, and the company has started with the ATR 72 and the De Havilland Canada Dash 8. It uses a fuel cell electric powertrain that replaces traditional engines and uses modular hydrogen capsules. 

With most aviation carbon emissions produced by Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, old airplanes being put out of commission would need to be replaced with hydrogen-powered planes to meet Paris Agreement emissions standards. Flying entirely on hydrogen is likely still a long ways away — but this is an important step to lowering carbon emissions. 

 

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Topics: Startups

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