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The University of Southampton

Southampton chemistry solution for re-purposing waste CO2 accelerates on path from laboratory to industry

Published: 29 June 2021
Dr Daniel Stewart
The patented hybrid catalyst platform created by Dr Daniel Stewart and Professor Robert Raja

Researchers at the University of Southampton are scaling the production of a novel catalyst that can efficiently and sustainably convert carbon dioxide into high-value chemical products, such as raw materials for recyclable plastics.

The ViridiCO2 spinout, based in Southampton’s School of Chemistry, has secured InnovateUK follow-on funding from UKRI’s national Innovation to commercialisation of university research (ICURe) scheme to expand its award-winning solution from the laboratory to early adopters in industry.

The patented hybrid catalyst platform, created by Dr Daniel Stewart and Professor Robert Raja , provides chemical manufacturers with a route to directly replace fossil fuels with re-purposed waste CO2. The technology can be retrofitted to the output streams of petrochemical refineries to close the carbon loop.

ViridiCO2 was one of a handful of game-changing UK technology companies to be invited to apply for additional funding on completion of the ICURe programme. The spinout has been advancing in the University’s Future Worlds Founder Cohort this spring and is set to announce a chemical industry veteran as its new chairperson.

Dr Stewart, EPSRC IAA Research Fellow and ViridiCO2 Chief Executive Officer, says: “We are here to drive forward the global goal of achieving net zero emission targets. This excellent new support from Innovate UK will enable us to rapidly bring our ambitious technology toward commercialisation.”

“This new investment follows technical and commercial validation that underlines our potential to bring about change not only to the UK but also the world. We will use the next 12 months to continue building a strong team and scale our catalyst technology in Southampton’s chemistry laboratories in readiness for engagement with early adopters.”

The chemical industry is one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the world, accounting for 880 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which represents six percent of all global greenhouse emissions.

Huge efforts are being made to mitigate emissions through storage strategies, however these offer only a finite solution. Instead, the industry increasingly recognises the need for processes that can re-purpose waste CO2 in order to close the loop.

Professor Raja, Head of Functional Inorganic, Materials and Supramolecular Chemistry at Southampton, says: “We have been developing a predictive catalyst design rationale at Southampton for the past 15 years, but this new technology represents a significant advance from the finite potential of Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) technologies while offering sustainable alternatives for the advanced manufacturing of plastics through Carbon  Capture Utilisation (CCU). Our platform is perfectly suited to branch out and tackle more emissions, and there will be opportunities to expand into the steel and cement industries in the future.”

ViridiCO2’s global potential was recognised by the Royal Society of Chemistry as winner of its prestigious 2020 Emerging Technologies Competition .

The novel technology has emerged from Dr Stewart’s doctoral research with Professor Raja, which followed an MChem degree in the School of Chemistry.

Professor Jonathan Essex , Head of Chemistry, says: “With sustainability at its core, our research is tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. This feeds directly into our high-quality teaching and it is great to see how Daniel has stepped on from his undergraduate degree to invent this innovative technology. We are delighted to support this ambitious spinout to help realise its immense potential for our planet.”

The Viridi CO2 platform was produced with research funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with further scale-up work and commercialisation activities supported by an EPSRC Impact acceleration (IAA) award.

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