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Converting CO2 to Sugar: Air Company’s Winning Plan

The Air Company in New York has won first place in NASA’s CO2 Conversion Challenge. The competition was for competitors to come up with a way that CO2 conversion could allow future inhabitants of the planet to manufacture products using Mars’ atmospheric carbon dioxide and water as resources. In hopes that someday we can sustain life on Mars. And the project they presented and won with was, being able to convert CO2 into sugars to bring new resources to Mars.

“We are thrilled to have received this incredible recognition from NASA,” Gregory Constantine, CEO and co-founder of Air Company says, “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.” 

What led to the Air Company’s victory was the design of an efficient and reliable non-biological process that was able to operate without the help of a human. The carbon dioxide system can be deployed as miniaturized units sized to fit inside a Mars Exploration Rover or deployed at massive scales for more widespread operation. The system is split into three phases, phase one is CO2 and hydrogen using water electrolysis, and they are passed over a catalyst to produce water and alcohol. In phase two, alcohols are converted into aldehydes. In phase three, the resulting mixture is transformed into sugars using a novel catalyst designed by Air Company for the system.

Air Company’s goal is to make the planet a better place. Even when the pandemic hit, Air Company knew they could help and they did. They started making hand sanitizer with a technology that converts carbon dioxide into ethanol. They then donated it to hospitals, police stations, doctor’s offices, and many more other places. They also created the world’s first carbon-negative vodka.

“It is great to hear about a team participating in a NASA challenge using their technology to help their local area during this crisis,” said Walt Engelund, deputy associate administrator for programs within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “This is one example of how NASA challenges spur innovation to help life on Earth and beyond. We catalyze a culture of change makers and problem solvers, many of whom go on to apply their technology and creativity to make a difference in their own communities and around the world.” They went on to lend out the CO2 conversion technology to many industries. And the company was championed by TIME for 100 Best Inventions of 2020 and Fast Company for the Best World Changing Idea North America.

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March 24, 2022
By Robert Yehling

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