fresh funding

Houston company scores NSF grant for DAC tech

GigaDAC's technology, as it scales, should reduce the cost of construction by two thirds. Photo courtesy of Victory Over Carbon

A Houston startup that's using aerospace engineering in the direct air capture space has received funding to continue research and development on its technology.

Victory Over Carbon Inc . received a Small Business Innovation Research grant for $272,488 from U.S. National Science Foundation. The company, which is based out of Greentown Labs in Houston, has created its GigaDAC system that uses a spray to aerodynamic separator model, reducing costs while maintaining efficacy, according to a news release from the company.

“NSF accelerates the translation of emerging technologies into transformative new products and services,” Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, says in the release. “We take great pride in funding deep-technology startups and small businesses that will shape science and engineering results into meaningful solutions for today and tomorrow.”

GigaDAC's technology, as it scales, should reduce the cost of construction by two thirds, per the company, while optimizing current DAC operations.

“DAC is a critical pillar to solving climate change, and an immense undertaking as society gets serious about scaling in a way that is both technologically sound as well as commercially viable,” Harrison Rice, CEO of Victory Over Carbon, says in the release “Today’s leading DAC contactor designs are largely an offshoot of cooling tower technology. As a positive, these systems work — but they’re not optimized to scale. For GigaDAC, we went to a blank slate and started with scalability as the first principal; both to build, and to operate efficiently.

"Getting this right means winning in a market expected to grow to over $1 trillion in annual revenue,” he continues.

Since the company has secured funding from the America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, it can apply for additional funding totaling up to $2 million.

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release .

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS , explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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