How our tech works, Part 1: Monoliths

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Before you get too excited — no, a monolith is not an ancient mythological sea creature we’ve somehow leveraged to fight climate change. But we think you’ll find our use for these unassuming honeycomb structures just as interesting. 

We certainly do.

Something old, something new... something novel

We’ve brought together something old and something new to bring to life a novel Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) approach. Let’s break it down.

Something old: Monoliths. From the auto industry to water treatment to spacecraft propulsion systems, these unheralded wonders have been around the block. In each of these roles, the monolithic task is to convert something harmful (or otherwise unfit for the job at hand) into something better, more useful, or less damaging.

As such, monoliths have a tried-and-true safety record and a robust supply chain. Which means we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to build out our infrastructure.

Something new: Enter Noya. We’re using activated-carbon monoliths in our solid sorbent Direct Air Capture (DAC) approach. More on that below.

From catalytic convertors to DAC innovators

Monoliths are most widely known for their use in catalytic converters. They’re typically made of ceramics or metal, and as we’ve alluded, consist of a honeycomb structure comprised of numerous tiny channels where air (or some other substance) can flow through. Monoliths are basically the unsung heroes of vehicle emissions control — pre-EVs, that is.

In a broad sense, monoliths play the same role in the world of CDR. We use them to clean up the atmosphere. Monoliths serve as the structured support for the sorbent material that captures and absorbs excess CO2 directly from the air we breathe — a process known as Direct Air Capture (DAC). 

In most use cases, DAC monoliths are made of cordierite, a naturally occurring mineral compound made up of magnesium, iron, aluminum, and silicon. As an example, the surface contactors used by Global Thermostat in its DAC process are cordierite monoliths.

We’re doing things differently.

We’ve spent a lot of time (like, really a lot) learning everything there is to know about monoliths. We’re a bit monolith obsessed. Nobody on the team has a monolith tattoo… yet. 

But we do, of course, have a custom Slack monolith emoji 🤓

Our electrifying use of monoliths

Our quest for the most efficient, low-cost regeneration process — much of which was spent head-down in the lab, testing monoliths of every type — brought us to activated-carbon monoliths. Unlike cordierite and other ceramic varieties, activated-carbon monoliths are electrically conductive. This conductivity is the key to our (incredibly efficient, if we do say so ourselves) regeneration process. As a bonus, this process actually produces water. We’re fighting carbon with carbon!

Also, we like that these monoliths can be made in a variety of ways. A Noya-favorite example: Activated-carbon monoliths have been successfully derived from coconut husk fibers — which fits snugly into our “something old, something new” theme we have going here.

But the real fun comes out of the fact that activated-carbon monoliths have never been used for DAC. Obviously this is exciting. Now we’re on to the hard work of doing (and scaling!) something that’s first-of-a-kind. 

The creative act: bringing it all together

You know that thing everybody says about the creative process? About how nothing is truly original, and that the creative act is actually about making connections between two previously unconnected things? We’re combining these different areas of knowledge to make something entirely new.

We’re really excited by the way monoliths let us deploy modularly and regenerate CO2 efficiently. Both of these factors will allow us to remove CO 2 from the atmosphere at ultra-low costs.

More on that (and how we plan to harness modularity to reshape the landscape of DAC) in a future post ✌️

Next up: our electrothermal regeneration process. Until then!