Developed by Opus 12 co-founders and Foundry industry users Kendra Kuhl and Etosha Cave, the OP1 device recycles carbon dioxide into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels. The technology fastens onto sources of carbon dioxide emissions, and with only water and electricity, transforms that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products – a process that could reduce industrial carbon emissions while creating a new revenue stream from what is usually discarded as waste product. Their technology received an R&D100 special recognition award.
OP1 can produce cost-competitive chemicals and fuels from carbon dioxide at small and large scales. The development team previously demonstrated the production of 16 products from this carbon dioxide, including a precursor to plastic (ethylene), a precursor to diesel fuel (syngas), renewable methane, ethanol, and refrigerant (ethylene glycol), acetone, propanol, and formic acid.
The technology’s core innovation is a cost-effective component that enables a standard polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer to transform carbon dioxide into valuable carbon-based chemicals and fuels. At full scale and coupled with renewable electricity, OP1’s electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide could offset one-third of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.
The developers have collaborated with a world-leading systems integrator to develop a commercial OP1 carbon monoxide generator, which will be a modular system that can accommodate a range of carbon dioxide input volumes. The developers say that such a device could be scaled for the $25 billion carbon monoxide and syngas market, potentially providing the U.S. manufacturing industry with a renewable source of carbon-based chemical products. Long term, the device could be used to produce carbon-neutral liquid fuels.
Opus 12 co-founders Kendra Kuhl and Etosha Cave were among eight innovators selected from around the country to participate in the first cohort of Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road entrepreneurial fellowship program in 2015. Cyclotron Road fellows are embedded at Berkeley Lab for two years while they advance a breakthrough technology concept toward a first product.