Sustainable plastic products made out of air pollution

AirCarbon is a plastic polymer made out of methane emissions that would otherwise be polluting the air.

Newlight technologies, founded in 2003, looks at how greenhouse gases can be transformed into materials that can be used in other products. They have developed a new carbon capturing technology that can take greenhouse gases and transform them into a plastic material named AirCarbon. This AirCarbon material can be used for the same purposes as oil-based plastic, and is cheaper to produce. The research into carbon capturing was inspired by nature’s ability to turn CO2 into energy in plants and reefs. 

AirCarbon is created from methane-based carbon emissions (rather than the fossil fuels that are used to create standard plastics). The methane emissions are inserted into Newlight’s polymerisation system and once inside, the emissions are combined with a catalyst and with air and are converted into a polymer. This polymer is then removed from the system, turned into pellets and melted down to become products.  

After 10 years of testing and refining the system, AirCarbon production went commercial in 2013, and now several big companies (including Dell and Ikea) are looking into using the material to make carbon-negative products. 

Newlight has been awarded many awards for the AirCarbon technology, including the 2016 EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer Award and Popular Science Innovation of the Year.