Energy solutions are becoming increasingly complex. Where once wind and solar power were the keys to our net-zero future, it is becoming increasingly clear to many in the industry that a myriad of solutions will be necessary to help us all keep moving in the post-carbon world.
Zero Carbon Ventures is one such company. As a deep-tech climate investor, Zero Carbon helps to fund and scale innovative businesses from around the world that could hold the missing piece in net-zero transportation in the Middle East.
One such company is Levidian Nanosystems, whose LOOP technology cracks methane into hydrogen and carbon, before locking the carbon into high-quality green graphene. Last month, Zero Carbon and Levidian announced that they will develop the LOOP technology across the UAE.
Auto Futures sat down with Martin Reynolds, Zero Carbon Ventures’ CEO, to find out more about the project.
Why did Zero Carbon Ventures choose to work with Levidian Nanosystems?
We identified Levidian as an exciting prospect relatively early in our journey. The team in Cambridge was delivering something extremely clever, resourceful, yet fantastic for the environment. Producing impactful, useful materials like Graphene and Hydrogen which could fundamentally change the way things are built and powered.
Also, the timing was right; Levidian had reached the right point in the tech roadmap where they were ready to scale up and commercialise.
How does Zero Carbon Ventures choose the companies it works with? What criteria do they have to meet?
Our four targets when we search for technology are: a professional team, the capability to reduce carbon emissions, being ready to scale up, and being a financially profitable process in its own right.
We believe that there is already fantastic technology in the marketplace that nobody knows about that needs to be brought to the forefront.
The Middle East is a space which is very familiar to us, so we can understand the product and market fit quite easily. We support technology providers by giving them an easy landing zone in the region through financial support, finding customers, and delivering value right from the start.
Why are hydrogen and green graphene important to meeting future mobility needs?
Hydrogen is clearly a fuel for the future. In terms of mobility, I don’t believe it is going to be a decision between battery-electric and hydrogen – I think both technologies will work hand-in-hand – and we are already seeing that with companies like the British battery-electric truck company Tevva, who use a battery system combined with a hydrogen range extender to maximise their capabilities.
In the supply chain of the automotive industry, for example, hydrogen can be used in many steps of the process and not just as a mobility fuel. Elements of the supply chain will currently use natural gas in their furnaces. If that can be powered by Hydrogen, or in the early days using for example the Levidian LOOP technology to decarbonise the gas in advance of the furnace, auto manufacturers can reduce their scope three emissions.
Graphene has a fantastic array of early applications, such as paints, composites, rubber and concrete. As one of the lightest, yet strongest materials in the world, graphene has the capability to build things to last.
Graphene in paints can mean a reduction in fading, rust, and the impact of pesky car park dings. Graphene in asphalt can mean a reduction in cracks and potholes formed during the winter months.
Graphene technology has already been trialled in bicycle tyres and has in some tests proven double-digit improvements in terms of longevity and wear rate.
Whilst fantastic in terms of reduction of tyre waste, and reduction in tyre particulate emissions, this improvement will require industries to re-think how they develop and design their products. Tyre manufacturers will need to build this improvement into their business plans as it could significantly change numbers now that graphene-enhanced tyres will have a better wear rate than our current ones.
The Middle East is often thought of as relying heavily on oil exporting – is this characterisation correct?
The Middle East has been largely built on oil and gas, but its leaders are very clear that they know it’s not the future and are heavily investing in other industries. The UAE, for example, announced record non-oil related revenues just last week. COP 27 is in Egypt this year and COP 28 is in Abu Dhabi in 2023, both events are driving a real change in focus for the leaders in countries like the UAE.
I’m witnessing a real shift in how major corporates are communicating about sustainability and climate change on the whole and it’s obvious to me that the most progressive Middle Eastern businesses know they have to continue investing in new technologies to reduce their carbon footprint if they are going to continue to compete on a global scale.
We help corporates find technology to allow industrial activities to continue ‘business as usual’ without making major infrastructure changes, whilst dealing with greenhouse gases before they are liberated to the atmosphere.
Why is Zero Carbon Ventures looking to bring the LOOP tech to the UAE, specifically?
Landfill waste is a tragic scenario. We’ve been in a disposable throw-away society for too long and methane emissions from landfill sites in the UAE are an issue. The LOOP device is capable to consume the methane given off from a landfill site and convert it into graphene and hydrogen which are, in turn, going to revitalise the way things are made and how we power them.
Graphene has the potential to replace the carbon that battery manufacturers use and our partners, Levidian, have done some research which shows it is capable of massively improving charging times and capability, making it a highly useful material to use in EV batteries.
It’s useful in many other industries too; the UAE is producing around 25m tonnes of concrete every year – with a huge carbon impact – and the application of graphene in concrete has the potential to reduce that number by up to 30%.
What energy and industrial tech solutions do you think will be important in the next five to ten years?
Retrofit rather than replace. The steel industry, for example, believes it needs to make fundamental changes to its processes and its energy sources to renewables to hit net-zero targets. Many organisations simply can’t afford to do that.
For me, it’s about finding technology that is easy to fit onto existing processes and allows businesses to continue doing what they are doing in a profitable way but capturing and storing the carbon before it is released into the atmosphere. This buys time for regional power generation to shift to renewable energy, whilst dealing with the greenhouse gases, now.
Net Zero by 2050 isn’t that far away, but it is what we do right now and in the next decade which will drive our ability to be most impactful.