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Carbyon is the startup developing the world’s most ambitious solution to global warming. So ambitious that 100 soccer fields of Carbyon’s direct-air carbon capture machines across the globe could offset a significant portion of the emissions generated annually by the aviation industry.

Will the buildup of greenhouse gasses and ongoing climate change make our world uninhabitable? Not if Carbyon CEO and founder Hans De Neve has anything to do with it.

De Neve and his Carbyon team are tackling humankind’s most urgent challenge – how to capture CO2 in the atmosphere built up from centuries of burning fossil fuels. This is a fast-growing industry, but Carbyon has a competitive advantage – an efficient, less costly and more easily deployable device for carbon extraction.

Carbyon employs advanced materials De Neve developed working at Dutch R&D institution TNO on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Carbyon’s competitive advantage is an efficient, less costly and more easily deployable device for carbon extraction, a concept perfected after he joined deep-tech venture builder HighTechXL. HighTechXL, based in HTC 27, is part of the Netherlands biggest startup hub and is the country’s only deep-tech venture builder.

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“We had this idea about capturing CO2 from air. But to be honest, we didn’t have a clear view of the market, like who’s gonna buy it. And so, being challenged on such topics (at HighTechXL) … that was refreshing,” De Neve said. “We said, ‘Let’s develop the technology. And you know, this is going to be so obvious everybody will want it. But define ‘everybody,’ right? And then we started to figure out okay, okay. Yeah. Who then? Which markets? And when will this market happen? And can we get a priority? And is there a beachhead market?

“And so, we were introduced to that way of thinking which we were not used to.” In business, it’s all about the money, and Carbyon has raised about 5 million euros so far in grants, subsides and convertible loans, not including the XPRIZE money.
The team will use the XPRIZE money to expand while developing their working prototype, said De Neve.
At this point, two years after starting up, Carbyon has plans through 2023.

They include:
• Taking the proven essential components and building a fully functioning lab-scale prototype.
• After that, they’ll build an outdoor pilot prototype to test together with an outdoor CO2 storage facility in Rotterdam as well as greenhouses, which need CO2.
• There’s another pilot that is conducting tests using CO2 to make jet fuel.
• One of the byproducts of Carbyon machines is water, so some customers want them for the desert.

The pilots require machines that capture 100 tons of CO2 per year, which is a lot. “But if you think that we are emitting 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, of course, 100 tons is just a start,” he said.

De Neve’s goal is to build Carbyon machines capable of capturing 1,000 tons annually, machines that can be mass manufactured and grouped together for efficiency. He points to the auto industry, which De Neve said turns out 100 million units every year. “Our device is no more complex to produce and assemble than a car, so there is no reason why, over time, we could not produce 100 million systems each and every year,” he said, adding, “We will need to go to that size if we want to have a sizable impact on climate change.
In this now-or-never global scenario with global temperatures approaching the threshold for dangerous warming (+1.5 oC) 2022 promises to be Carbyon’s year. In fact, this already is Carbyon’s year.

Carbyon was one of 15 teams awarded the $1 million Milestone Award in the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition on 22 April – Earth Day – by Dr. Peter Diamandis’ LA-based non-profit XPRIZE Foundation. Funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation, this XPRIZE category put up $100 million to create a circular carbon economy. That $100 million prize for carbon removal is “the largest incentive prize in history fighting humanity’s biggest problem,” according to the foundation.

Since the XPRIZE announcement, Carbyon has been all over the news, all over the world. With TechCrunch, Innovation Origins and other media now covering Carbyon, “more and more now, they ask ‘Are you just on your own, working in a garage, so to speak? Or is there a broader community?’ And this is where it gets interesting,” De Neve said.

With so many companies in Eindhoven working on deep-tech – on mechatronics, and technology and hardware, Eindhoven is the European deep-tech hub in terms of advanced technology, Hans said. “That’s something new for many people, especially from the U.S. point of view. I think winning the XPRIZE can help put High Tech Campus Eindhoven and HighTechXL on the map of global tech innovation centers.

“That’s what we should try to do.”

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