Seven Direct Air Capture Pre-Commercial Tech Prize “Develop Phase” semifinalists to elevate direct air capture through technology advances

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) today announced seven semifinalists for the development phase of the Direct Air Capture Pre-Commercial Prize to receive a total of $1.05 million in cash awards and technical assistance for technology solutions that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution by removing it directly from the atmosphere. Advancing developments in carbon dioxide removal, including direct air capture technology, is imperative to attaining the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic climate and clean energy agenda. The Direct Air Capture Pre-Commercial Technology Prize is one of several prize competitions hosted by DOE and funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support breakthrough direct air capture technologies that demonstrate strong potential to rapidly commercialize and scale carbon dioxide removal.

“Support for transformative technology in the direct air capture industry, from concept to commercialization, is an important component of achieving our net-zero ambitions,” said Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “The Direct Air Capture Technology Prize development phase winners demonstrate a deep understanding of specific challenges in the direct air capture industry, proposing a detailed, creative, and diverse set of breakthrough technologies that will help reduce costs and enable large-scale deployment.”

Direct air capture is a process that separates COfrom ambient air, helping to reduce the level of CO2 already in the atmosphere. The separated CO2 is then safely and permanently stored deep underground or converted into useful carbon-containing products like concrete that prevent its release back into the atmosphere. The Direct Air Capture Technology Prize competition supports the goals of DOE’s Carbon Negative Shot initiative, which calls for innovation and cost reductions in carbon dioxide removal pathways within one decade in order to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store it at gigaton scales for less than $100/net metric ton of CO2-equivalent.

Direct Air Capture Pre-Commercial Technology Prize Semifinalists

The Direct Air Capture Technology Prize helps advance direct air capture technologies by sponsoring teams that identify a critical need in the industry, develop a solution to address this gap, and test the idea to a degree of scale. It focuses on the steps of concept development and entrepreneurship needed to prepare technologies and businesses for commercialization. 

Learn more about the semifinalist teams and their winning solutions:

  • Arizona Board of Regents (team: Team CNCE) – Tempe, Arizona: Use of carbonate salt embedded in activated carbon fibers as a low-cost sorbent that demonstrates high-capacity and cyclic stability.
  • Capture6 Corp (team: Capture6) – Berkeley, California: An innovative tower design, Absorption Unit Reactor for Ambient Air, improves the mass transfer characteristics of legacy cooling towers and reduces total energy demand.
  • Carbon To Stone Inc. (team: Carbon To Stone) – Ithaca, New York: Harnesses alkaline resources bearing high value metals for integrated direct air capture, mineralization, and co-recovery of metals and silica.
  • Elysia Labs LLC (team: Elysia Labs) – Phoenix, Arizona: Electrospun nanofibers drastically cut energy costs and pressure drop, making direct air capture more affordable and efficient.
  • Giner, Inc (team: Giner DAC) – Newton, Massachusetts: An integrated system captures CO2 from air in concentrated potassium hydroxide, and then electrolyzes the carbonate back into pure CO2 at low voltage.
  • Holocene Climate Corporation (team: Holocene) – Knoxville, Tennessee: Novel organic chemistry enables a new type of direct air capture, employing a solvent system that only needs low temperatures for regeneration.
  • Nūxsen LLC (team: Team Nūxsen) – New York, New York: Electrochemical direct air capture technologies replace thermal energy requirements with variable controlled voltage, significantly reducing costs.

Each semifinalist team will receive $100,000 in cash prizes and $50,000 in technical assistance. The semifinalists are also eligible to advance to the “Design” Phase of the prize competition to demonstrate momentum toward implementation of their solutions. “Design” Phase winners will advance to the final “Deliver” Phase, where they are asked to construct and test solutions, as well as develop strategy for scalability and partnerships, to compete for a grand prize of $1 million.

The Direct Air Capture Technology Prize is funded by FECM and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It is part of a suite of separate but connected prizes to support direct air capture technology advancement with a focus on community and labor engagement, creating high-quality jobs, and providing economic and environmental benefits to affected communities. Learn more about the Direct Air Capture Prizes suite.

FECM minimizes environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and industrial processes while working to achieve net-zero emissions across the U.S. economy. Priority areas of technology work include carbon capture, carbon conversion, carbon dioxide removal, carbon dioxide transport and storage, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the National Energy Technology Laboratory website.