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Scaling Up Bio-Based Materials to Remove Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere

Company Name: Visolis, Inc.
Program Office: Bioenergy
Location: Berkeley, CA
Award Amount ($): $300,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)


Carbon dioxide removal technologies can complement existing efforts to reduce climate-altering emissions at their source by replacing fossil resources. Scientists and engineers have developed various bio-based processes, which rely on living or once-living material, to take advantage of the many ways plants naturally remove carbon dioxide from the air. These technologies have witnessed rapid development in the past several years, but scaling them up to commercial levels has been risky, due to low yields and reliance on single products.

Visolis is focusing on a fermentation-based process for carbon dioxide removal. Progressive scale up to demonstration and commercial level will require testing and demonstrate-scale capabilities, which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory can offer. Through this project, Visolis will work with the lab staff to validate its processes and generate samples to determine whether product purity meets required specifications. The company will also develop technical and economic analysis for scaling up and demonstrating the technology.


The Visolis process enables the production of bio-based elastomers, unsaturated polyester resins, polyurethanes, and other products using a variety of feedstocks, including agricultural waste, dextrose, and syngas. As the technology moves down the cost curve, the same process can be adapted to produce fuel, including high-energy-density jet fuels. The high-yield Visolis process is a platform technology based on an engineered microbe coupled with efficient processing, leading to near-theoretical energy efficiency. Furthermore, flexibility in the company's production process allows for rapid changes in the product mix in response to volatile market conditions, which could reduce commercial risk in the same way modern refineries diversity their own product offerings.


If successful, this process will reduce the cost of various products by 20 to 50 percent relative to petroleum-based processes.

The process can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70 percent compared to reliance on petroleum. Structural materials produced through these processes can trap carbon for decades. Resin applications alone represent a carbon sink potential of over 200 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to planting two billion trees.

Reducing petroleum use through new industrial applications helps insulate the United States from global oil price spikes and diversifies the supply of raw materials used for manufacturing.

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