Made of Air, a Berlin based startup, has developed a new carbon negative thermoplastic. The material is developed using waste from forests and farms in the countryside surrounding Berlin.
The material, also called Made of Air, is 90% carbon and stores two tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of plastic. Made of Air is carbon negative, in that it stores more CO2 than it releases into the atmosphere. Architects Allison Dring and Daniel Schwaag founded the startup in 2016 — their previous project together was the pollutant-absorbing cladding called Prosolve370e.
The material is created from biochar, a form of charcoal created by heating biomass to extremely high temperatures in an oxygen-free furnace. This process, called pyrolysis, reduces the biomass to just carbon. Biochar is commonly used as a fertilizer, but it is becoming more and more popular as an efficient tool for removing carbon from the atmosphere and combating climate change. Biochar remains stable for centuries, and so will not release its carbon back into the atmosphere for a very long time, unlike the short lifespan of decaying biomass.
Made of Air is made from forestry offcuts and agricultural waste, plant material, and wood that is naturally full of carbon. After creating the biochar, the company infuses it with a binding material created from sugar cane, and the end result is thermoplastic granules that can be used in normal plastic molding and production.
The new thermoplastic has already begun to see some use — the company recently partnered with clothing retailer H&M to produce a pair of limited edition carbon-negative sunglasses. The material’s most impressive real life application to date is its use in the building of an Audi dealership in Munich. The dealership was clad in seven tonnes of Made of Air pressed into hexagonal panels, which the company claims stores fourteen tonnes of carbon.
According to the startup, there are five main areas where bioplastics can be realistically applied — urban infrastructure, building facades, interiors, transport, and furniture. The company is currently in talks with manufacturers about possibly producing carbon-negative parts for cars, and also the possibility of Made of Air furniture.
Made of Air hopes to see the practical applications of its material play a part in the rapid urban growth that can be observed across the planet, giving this rapid growth an active part to play in slowing down climate change.
Featured image courtesy Made of Air