Resident Weekly

A Exclusive Current Affairs Platform


A New Business that Turns CO2 Into Sustainable Rocket Fuel Via Photosynthesis

In recent years, there has been an increasing push to make rocket launches more environmentally friendly. This is a critical step in lessening space exploration’s negative environmental effects.

The goal of Brooklyn-based startup AIR COMPANY is to improve the sustainability of rocket launches. By working with NYU Tandon School of Engineering, they want to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into environmentally friendly rocket fuel.

To create new uses for their AIRMADE technology, AIR COMPANY researchers are working with Miguel Modestino, director of NYU Tandon’s Sustainable Engineering Initiative (SEI). This technique transforms CO2 into high-performance chemicals and fuels through a procedure akin to photosynthesis.

In November 2023, the project was even chosen to get NASA’s very competitive Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award. This program provides funding for early-stage research and development (R&D) projects involving small enterprises and research institutions that enhance NASA missions and aid in the solution of significant issues that benefit society as a whole.

When AIR COMPANY joined the Urban Future Lab (UFL) in 2019, Modestino—who is also an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at NYU Tandon—began collaborating with AIR COMPANY. The Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at NYU Tandon proved to be a valuable collaborator for AIR COMPANY when they needed access to specialized laboratory resources and equipment for their research.

Tandon and AIR COMPANY have been able to work together on sustainability research goals, particularly those connected to SEI priorities, thanks to this cooperation.

Co-founder and CTO of AIR COMPANY Stafford Sheehan stated, “This ongoing collaboration with NYU Tandon School of Engineering has significantly contributed to AIR COMPANY’s success executing projects for NASA.” “The team and technology we work with here are world-class, and we look forward to what is next.”

“Our collaboration with AIR COMPANY exemplifies our dedication to sustainability in space exploration and brings us closer to the possibility of human settlement on Mars,” stated Modestino. “This partnership underscores the transformative impact of academic-industry alliances, offering students a direct pathway from lab innovations to impactful real-world endeavors.”

It appears that AIR COMPANY maintains a wide variety of alliances and agreements with different businesses and institutions. They seem to have contracts with the U.S. Air Force, Defense Innovation Unit, and NASA in addition to partnerships with airlines like Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue.

Additionally, they have won prizes for their inventions, including the XPRIZE for Carbon Removal, Fast Company World Changing Ideas, and Time Best Inventions. In reality, AIR COMPANY and its partners at NYU Tandon were granted a NASA Phase I STTR grant in 2022 to assess the viability and hazards associated with implementing CO2-derived renewable fuel production technology for NASA on Earth, in spacecraft, and on Mars.

The collaborative team will spend the next two years working on the Phase II STTR project. Building on their Phase I achievements, Modestino’s team will spearhead the collection of crucial chemical reaction data to train computer models for fuel production optimization.

While this is going on, the researchers at AIR COMPANY will concentrate on increasing production, making sure the product satisfies jet fuel requirements for commercial usage, and assessing if it would be feasible to employ this renewable fuel technology on Earth and Mars.

Beyond rocket fuel, the sustainable fuel developed by the AIR COMPANY team may find other applications. Using just the Martian atmosphere, water, and solar photovoltaic electricity, it may be utilized, for example, to create stable and stable fuel on Mars in situ. On the red planet, this may power infrastructure and habitats.

error: Content is protected !!