This $1.5 billion startup promised to deliver clean fuels as cheap as gas. Experts are deeply skeptical.

The method

The method breaks down into 4 major phases, in response to Prometheus’s investor supplies. 

In the first step, industrial followers attract air and blow it via a mixture of water and different compounds, which McGinnis says might embody sodium carbonate. That then readily reacts with carbon dioxide molecules within the air, shifting a lot of the carbonate to bicarbonate.

The ensuing answer then strikes right into a battery-like cell with a membrane within the center and electrodes on both finish, which makes use of electrical energy to spark a collection of chemical reactions that produce advanced alcohols. It’s outfitted with a catalyst based mostly on know-how licensed from Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory. In an earlier description, that lab mentioned it had developed a catalyst comprised of tiny carbon spikes embedded with copper nanoparticles. When a voltage was utilized, it transformed carbon dioxide dissolved in water into ethanol “with a yield of 63%.”

Prometheus’s carbon nanotube membranes come into play in step three, separating the alcohols from the water. 

And in a ultimate step, completely different catalysts are used to mix the alcohols and convert them into artificial gasoline, diesel, or jet gasoline. In 2020, Prometheus licensed separate know-how from the Oak Ridge lab that can be utilized to provide jet gasoline from ethanol, via a multistep course of that depends on a novel although unspecified catalyst. 

The general course of is considerably completely different from the one different firms changing captured carbon into fuels are taking. As McGinnis defined in a Joule commentary, the Prometheus methods can function underneath commonplace atmospheric stress and at room temperature. The know-how additionally avoids the warmth power wanted to provide concentrated carbon dioxide in addition to the capital prices of an electrolyzer devoted to producing hydrogen. As a substitute, the corporate claims, it will possibly synthesize alcohols straight from carbon dioxide dissolved in water, after which convert these into commonplace fuels.

In the event that they’ve certainly discovered how to do that, it “might result in vital power and price financial savings,” says Evan David Sherwin, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford who produced the Environmental Science & Expertise research.

One of many final slides within the investor supplies reveals a Prometheus-branded gasoline station, with a crimson neon “Zero Web Carbon” signal promoting fuel costs of $3.50 a gallon and diesel at $3.75, nicely beneath present common US costs.

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