A technology, engineering and design-based company in New York has secured first place in NASA’s CO2 Conversion Challenge with a project that converts CO2 into sugars to create new resources on Mars. The competition was meant to demonstrate the most efficient means of CO2 conversion that would allow future inhabitants of the planet to manufacture products using Mars’ atmospheric carbon dioxide and water as resources.
“We are thrilled to have received this incredible recognition from NASA,” said Gregory Constantine, CEO and co-founder of Air Company, “The possibilities and applications for our technology are vast and we are thrilled to be able to continue to use innovation to push boundaries. From consumer goods that actively help mitigate climate change to sustaining people during space travel, our ambition is to help further humanity both on Earth and beyond.” The company was also named by TIME for having one of the 100 Best Inventions of 2020 and Fast Company for the Best World Changing Idea North America.
According to the company, the main key to success came from designing a highly efficient and reliable non-biological process (patent pending) with the ability to operate without human interference. The carbon dioxide system can be constructed as miniaturized units sized to fit inside a Mars Exploration Rover or deployed at massive scales for more widespread operation.
The process is made up of three phases. First, the system creates CO2 and hydrogen using water electrolysis, which is then passed over a catalyst to produce alcohols and water. Then, the alcohols are converted into aldehydes before the resulting mixture is transformed into sugars using a novel catalyst designed by Air Company for the system. Best of all, the entire process of turning air into sugar generates exactly zero waste since all the byproducts are internally recyclable.
Images courtesy of Air Company