D3 Announces Two New Cohorts, Including First Focused Group on CO2 Removal
As part of our effort to move the needle—and the market—on climate tech, Third Derivative (D3) is proud to announce Cohorts 22-2 and 22-3. Alongside a general cohort (22-2) comprising 29 promising climate tech startups, we’re also excited to introduce our first focused cohort of 5 additional startups (22-3) zeroing in on a critical area: carbon dioxide removal (CDR).
The CDR cohort falls under the umbrella of First Gigaton Captured. Launched less than seven months ago, the multi-year initiative funded by the Grantham Trust aims to supercharge the commercialization of viable carbon removal solutions—and, ultimately, slash the carbon removal price tag from today’s $500 per ton to $100 per ton.
Of the 60 applications we received for the CDR cohort, we chose but five startups which we believe have the power—and tech readiness—to change our world.
Meet the Classes of Cohorts 22-2 and 22-3
Today, we excitedly welcome the 34 startups comprising Cohorts 22-2 and 22-3. These dreamers and doers are hyper-focused on near-term impact, with 52% working on direct climate mitigation measures.
The startups were selected from an impressive, accomplished, and diverse pool of more than 300 applicants—70% of which were female or BIPOC led. And geographic diversity was also a hallmark of this group, with seven different countries represented. Notably, about half of our accepted startups are from outside North America, including multiple companies hailing from India, Israel, and Singapore.
Speaking to the high quality of applicants this round, the general cohort boasted an 11% acceptance rate—higher than the industry average.
The CDR cohort represented a 9% acceptance rate. Startups in this focused group were required to be at a tech readiness level of 4+ and have the lab-scale performance data to go along with it. TL;DR? These innovative carbon drawdown concepts and companies are likely to be on the market and making an impact in our world in the very near future.
While the startups chosen for Cohort 22-2 represent a veritable rainbow of innovation, some common trends, themes, and hot topics emerged among them:
- Batteries on the Brain: From ramping up domestic battery manufacturing while reducing carbon footprint, to leveraging machine learning to improve energy output, employing x-ray vision to measure a battery’s health from the inside out, enlisting silicon’s superpowers to produce anodes to taking the streamlined approach to cathode manufacturing, the creativity of startups working in this space knew no bounds.
- AI-Enabled Advancements: Other tech stars in the cohort are employing artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to do everything from manufacturing battery materials at a lightning pace to constructing models when real-world data is sparse to pinpointing net-zero materials in hard to decarbonize sectors.
- Greener, Cleaner, Cheaper Hydrogen: From using microwave energy to shrink the required electricity and water used in its production, to building a better gas separation membrane to reduce the costs and energy associated with its separation, to the re-conception of the hydrogen fuel cell, the development of a process that leverages thermochemistry to produce low-cost, green hydrogen, as well as one leveraging electrolyzers to produce a cheaper, clean hydrogen, the top of the periodic table was top of mind for several other startups.
Want to dive a bit deeper into our latest batch of startups? Read on for a brief introduction to each and visit our Startup Portfolio to learn why we’re so thrilled to help these breakthrough thinkers participate and prosper.
The 411 on Cohort 22-2
- Aepnus enables the domestic extraction and refinement of battery-grade lithium chemicals to ramp up US battery manufacturing at a fraction of the CapEx, OpEx and carbon footprint of incumbent lithium refinement practices. Their platform-play electrochemical technology holds the promise of being able to synthesize commodity chemicals (such as lithium, a critical enabler for EVs) at significantly higher efficiencies than competing systems.
- Industrial heat powered by fossil fuels is a global challenge accounting for approximately 1/5th of global emissions. AtmosZero has developed a high-efficiency drop-in replacement for fossil-fueled boilers focused on decarbonizing low- and medium-temperature industrial process heat.
- Aurora's technology produces low-cost, distributed hydrogen from natural gas without generating any CO2 emissions. The company uses microwave energy to efficiently turn methane into hydrogen and pure solid carbon particles, while using 80% less electricity than electrolysis and consuming no water. Their ultra-efficient approach can make hydrogen for as low as $0.50/kg, accelerating the decarbonization of fertilizer, steel, refining, and other industrial processes.
Automat Solutions, Inc.
- Automat develops, manufacturers, and sells new battery materials using its one-of-a-kind platform technology, combining AI and robotics to create solutions 100x faster than the conventional manual process. The company offers high performance electrolytes and other innovations that improve EV performance such as driving range, temperature tolerance, charging time, and overall safety. They've already seen significant commercial traction with nearly a dozen paying battery manufacturers.
- BattGenie's solution is built on using fast-solving, physics-based battery models combined with machine learning to provide improved energy output through the batteries’ lifespan. Today's Li-ion batteries are capable of performing a lot better than their battery management systems enable them to. BattGenie's innovative software unlocks those capabilities, improving charging rates by up to 40%, cycle life by up to 100%, and overall safety of batteries without requiring any changes to hardware.
- Brimstone invented a way to make carbon negative Portland cement. Their approach to making cement using calcium silicate rocks can not only eliminate the process emissions but also rival the cost and performance of ordinary Portland cement all while producing a key by-product—class F fly ash—that reduces the need for clinker in cement.
- Cache Energy is developing long duration energy storage technology that can scale up-to durations of more than 100 hours. The non-toxic, non-flammable storage material can be safely stored at room temperature and transported easily. Their solution may be the cheapest available option for seasonal energy storage, a critical enabler of power sector decarbonization with intermittent renewables.
- ClimateCrop uses gene editing to unlock the potential of plants to harness more energy, store more carbon, and produce higher yields. Their solution uses CRISPR technology to increase the starch retention in vascular plants, which covers everything we eat. With a 90% yield increase demonstrated in potatoes, ClimateCrop may be able to solve the world's most dire food shortages—while also increasing CO2 drawdown in trees.
- ClimateWells uses the carbon markets and its robust lifecycle emissions measurement tools to incentivize the early remediation and retirement of oil and gas wells. Underperforming oil and gas wells leak gigatons of methane into the atmosphere. As methane has up to 84 times the global warming potential of CO2, the world has a dire need for ClimateWell's novel approach.
CoFlow Jet Wind Turbines
- CoFlow's patented solution substantially increases lift, reduces drag, and increases stall angle of attack at low energy expenditures of wind turbines—all of which result in significantly higher power output and extended lifespan. Their downwind turbine designs have fans in the middle of the blades to reduce cut-in speeds and increase thrust, cutting 30% off wind power's levelized cost of electricity.
- In the chemicals and refining industries (among others), separations account for 50% of energy consumption, and are typically accomplished using high pressures or vacuums. DiviGas created a sub-nano-molecular structure that enables its gas separation membranes used in H2 production to be more efficient and resist tougher gases, without the need for pre-treatment, all at an affordable price. DiviGas's proprietary membranes are the cheapest available option for hydrogen separations, with possible applications across hydrogen synthesis, storage, steel manufacturing, gasification, and more.
EH Group Engineering
- EH Group has applied a whole-systems approach to redesigning the hydrogen fuel cell to convert hydrogen gas into electricity. Their innovative fuel cell technology—based on a wholly redesigned microstructure—delivers a power density 1.5 to two times that of leading competitors and combines a unique production process that radically reduces costs. Their efficient, modular, recyclable technology can decarbonize road, rail maritime, and aviation transportation, among other use cases.
- Steel is typically the global material of choice for reinforcement in concrete products. FSC's approach to wrapping a low-cost fiber in tension around concrete products can potentially eliminate the need for steel reinforcement while improving the strength of the product and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The FRP is less expensive, does not corrode, and is more fire resistant than steel.
- Geminus combines synthetic data and measured data to create powerful, explainable machine learning models when large volumes of high-quality, real-world data aren't available or are difficult to acquire. Its AI-driven, physics-informed AI platform creates accurate industrial process models—in hours as compared to months for traditional AI—identifying efficiency measures for plants with millions in annual savings.
- India is aiming for 30% electric vehicle (EV) market share by 2030, which will strain charging and grid infrastructure. Kazam is building the EV infrastructure for 2–4-wheel electric vehicles, providing park+charge facilities and public charging stations at destination zones (e.g., shopping malls, restaurants, and local stores). Their integrated charging management and deployment offerings provide an end-to-end solution that makes deploying charging infrastructure, managing EV charging, and integrating EVs with the grid painless.
- Aerogels are known as the world's best insulation material, but the best isn't always affordable or scalable. Krosslinker's patented aerogel platform technology addresses the major limitations in traditional aerogel fabrication and formulation by bringing down the cost by a third, with three- to ten-times faster turnaround time, five-times more energy efficiency, and one-fifth the capital expenditure. Their innovative manufacturing method to develop aerogel insulation board results in much better environment control and the reduced thickness of the package ultimately lowers the consumer cost.
- LuxWall is developing high insulation windows with insulation value of R12 compared to typical windows installed today with an insulation value of R1-R3. Their vacuum insulation glazing technology-based windows can reduce heating and cooling demand energy use by up to 40%, which translates to a carbon footprint reduction of 2.5 Kg per ft.2 per year of building floor space. Their windows can retrofit the dominant single pane windows installed today in a cost-effective manner and increase both safety and acoustic performance.
- Materials Nexus is using AI/ML and hardware to identify new net-zero materials in fields such as hydrogen storage and other hard to decarbonize areas. Materials Nexus has invented a way of conducting DFT calculations—used to describe chemical reactions, surface interactions, and cell level dynamics—one-thousand-times faster and more accurately than previously possible. This technology may lead to next-generation materials discovery for new low-carbon alloys, chemicals for carbon capture, etc.
- OMC H2 is developing a thermochemical process for making low-cost green hydrogen. Their concept uses thermochemistry (heat) and a patent-pending active material to split water into hydrogen and oxygen at high pressures, which pairs naturally with existing industries that have high hydrogen demand, such as renewable diesel refining or ammonia production. Their process can generate both hydrogen or syngas (CO + H2) at pressure, ideal for co-locating with refinery hydrotreaters and making carbon-neutral fuels and petrochemicals.
- Parthian, a spinoff from Caltech, is developing a new class of advanced battery measurement technologies that, for the very first time, enables "visualization" of the anomalies in electrical current distribution "inside" the battery. Their first product uses electromagnetic waves to measure battery health and performance, which can prevent billion-dollar EV recalls, as well as usher in next-generation fast charging capabilities.
Planet A Energy
- Concentrated solar power can generate high temperature heat without CO2 emissions, but it's too expensive for wide-scale deployment today. Planet A uses fiber optic technology to cost-effectively capture, store, and deliver heat from the sun, phasing out fossil fuels to decarbonize industrial heating. Planet A's SunVise product uses breakthrough optics to capture massive amounts of solar energy directly into a vast bed of black sand, storing weeks or months of energy as heat in a combined collection and storage system. The black sand material costs 1/100 as much as batteries, never wears out, and is non-toxic and readily available.
Power to Hydrogen (P2H2)
- Power to Hydrogen developed patented technology which enables anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyzers to integrate with renewable energy and use abundant, low-cost materials to bring down system cost and the cost of clean hydrogen. P2H2’s AEM hydrogen electrolyzer is highly efficient, employs no rare-earth catalysts, and can ramp with intermittent renewables.
- India is the third largest consumer of electricity in the world, and is aiming to add 500GW of renewable energy by 2030. Prescinto's comprehensive intelligence platform collects plant data, applies data science models to identify causes for underperformance, and highlights actionable insights for the plant crew to rectify and increase energy generation across solar and wind power plants. It empowers renewable energy generation asset owners and operators with deep, actionable insight into their assets, improving yields by 4-7% and vastly improving the bottom lines and investment attractiveness of such projects.
- PwrCor uniquely generates "green" power from an abundant and typically wasted energy resource: ultra-low-grade heat. Its proven tech converts ultra-low and low-grade heat (140-300°F) into power, and can generate three to five times more power than current lower-heat engines by harnessing far greater amounts of energy from a given heat resource. PwrCor is not dependent on the sun or wind and converts this heat energy to clean green power 24x7, while reducing production of polluting legacy power. With their novel turbomachinery, PwrCor has two to three times more power output compared to organic rankine cycles and can achieve $0.02/kWh electricity delivery.
- Inspired by battery and fuel cell principles, RepAir's innovative electrochemical device utilizes electricity to separate CO₂ from the air. Their modular and scalable technology can reach Gigaton scale. RepAir’s electrochemical cell operates at ambient temperature and uses solely electrical energy for the CO₂ separation process, significantly reducing the energy cost compared to current solutions. By using renewable energy sources, RepAir can ensure minimal carbon footprint.
- Globally, there is a race to improve the gravimetric energy density, C-rate capabilities, and costs of Li-ion batteries. High-silicon-content anodes are a promising innovation opportunity to achieve all three goals. Volt14 taps into silicon’s ultra-high-performance potential as an anode material for Li-ion batteries by using their proprietary material science technology to circumvent silicon’s inherent electrochemical instabilities. Their solution relies on mature, at-scale, validated production processes that eliminate scalability and unit economics uncertainties inherent to other new battery technologies. Volt14's approach can yield cells with 40% improvement in specific energy, faster charging ability, and lower cost without requiring any changes to current cell production processes.
- SoMax takes waste sewage from municipalities and industrial facilities and upgrades it to hydrochar—a product that can be used to replace metallurgical coke, aggregate in concrete, soil amendments, etc. SoMax deploys modular hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) solutions to transform organic waste into hydrochar, preventing GHG emissions and utilizing the biocarbon products in different industrial markets, such as steel, building materials, and concrete, durably sequestering carbon for centuries. As a dual impact solution, SoMax’s carbon capture technology helps customers achieve net-zero carbon emissions while simultaneously lowering operational expenses.
- Reducing the cost, improving the efficiency, and enabling circularity in Li-ion battery manufacturing is critical for the widespread electrification of transport. Sylvatex’s MicroX platform enables a single step, closed-loop, and waterless process that enables the use of less processed critical mineral inputs, such as metal oxides/hydroxides and recycled materials. Their proprietary process takes up 1/20th of the footprint and shortens manufacturing time from 12+ hours to just two hours. These factors lead to a 60% reduction in cost, 5x increase in plant throughput, 85% less energy used, and saves 200M gallons of water per plant annually.
- CRISPR technology revolutionized genomic editing, but primarily works with eukaryotic cells, not prokaryotes (such as bacteria). Wild Microbes is expanding upon a decades-old approach called “recombineering” to build on bacteria genetic engineering. Their platform-play technology could solve nitrogen fixing in soil (reducing the need for ammonia), create synthetic palm oil without deforestation, etc. They are building a catalog of exceptional microbes, engineered for easy scaling. Companies can find their perfect organism on the platform, accelerating time to market and making their process cost effective at scale.
Cohort 22-3 (CDR) at a Glance
- Avnos’ Direct Air Capture (DAC) system combines very low-energy penalty Atmospheric Water Extraction (AWE) with advanced moisture-responsive CO2 sorbents in the same system. The DAC technology Avnos is developing shows a credible pathway to achieving less than $100/ton carbon dioxide removal given the reasonable sorbent costs they project and the ultra-low energy requirements of their process compared to incumbent technologies.
Mission Zero Technologies
- Carbon removal technologies frequently have poor economics for commercialization in the open market, and rely on novel materials and/or equipment that do not have established supply chains and take too long to mature. MZT's approach breaks down these barriers by using technology that has existing supply chains to develop a highly scalable carbon removal process that can integrate with Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) players in an economical fashion. Their process operates at ambient conditions and consumes less energy than amine- and hydroxide-based systems most commonly used today, reducing cost and allowing for the production of green CO2 critical to CCUS applications. Notably, MZT collaborated with another startup in our CDR cohort (44.01) to create Project Hajar, which won the XPRIZE for Carbon Removal earlier this year.
- Vesta's co-beneficial carbon removal technology is simple and scalable. Their concept dramatically accelerates the ancient natural process of rock weathering for permanent CDR and shoreline protection. By integrating olivine sand into shoreline protection projects, Vesta can harness free wave energy to accelerate the carbon dioxide capture process and de-acidify the ocean. The process captures twenty times more carbon dioxide than the extraction and transportation of the olivine emits. Deploying olivine on just 0.25% of global shelf seas could remove 1B tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
- 44.01 injects CO2 into porous peridotite aquifers, mineralizing CO2 captured from the atmosphere and from hard-to-abate industries. The process removes CO2 permanently, compared with storing CO2 in gaseous or semi-gaseous form in geological reservoirs with limited durability, implying significantly reduced leakage risks. The process also produces the fastest reaction rates compared to other forms of subsurface mineralization, enabling carbonation of CO2 in less than one year. The technology also boasts a runway to achieving geological sequestration at a cost of $15/ton at scale, which is comparable to traditional CO2 storage processes, with the significant added benefit of permanent CO2 removal. As previously noted, 44.01 and MZT collaborated to create the XPRIZE winning Project Hajar.
- Another one of our XPRIZE winners, Sustaera developed a Direct Air Capture technology powered by carbon-free electricity using an abundantly available, low-cost capture agent. Its modular design can work in any geographic location, in a wide range of ambient temperatures and humidities, and consumes less than100 acres of land per million tons/year of CO2 sequestered, which is significantly lower than land-based natural CO2 capture methods. While Sustaera's technology uses a widely available sorbent and commonly available sorbent support designs, the working capacity of their materials is significantly higher than that of their competitors. These features will help enable Sustaera to capitalize on readily available supply chains as they scale-up, rather than relying upon new supply chains to emerge.
Accelerate Your Impact
We’re always on the lookout for the next big idea. Are you a world-changing climate tech startup addressing billion-dollar markets in the areas of hard science, hardware, software, and business model innovation?
Leverage our network of mentors, investors, market experts, and corporate partners: Apply today for our 18-month accelerator program. We will be accepting applications for our next cohort (Cohort 22-4) through August 25, 2022.
Let’s change the world together.
➡️ Know a great startup for D3's portfolio? Refer them here.