Carbon capture: Clean-tech start-up turns carbon dioxide into luxury vodka

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Air Company CEO and co-founder Gregory Constantine told CNBC: “We work with partners that capture that carbon dioxide before it’s emitted into the atmosphere. Then we use that carbon dioxide in our process in creating the alcohols that we create. It’s obviously far better for the planet in that we’re removing carbon dioxide for every bottle that we’re creating.”

As Mr Constantine explains, distilling alcohol in the conventional fashion releases carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

In fact, past research by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable has indicated that the production of an average, 750-millilitre bottle of spirits results in the emission of some 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide when the glass packing is also taken into account.

The process also uses up a considerable amount of water — around 35 litres for every one litre of distillate produced.

In contrast, Air Vodka requires only two ingredients — carbon dioxide and water — and in smaller, less wasteful quantities.

The drink is made by separating out hydrogen and oxygen from the water by means of electrolysis.

The hydrogen is then fed along with the separately captured carbon dioxide into a “carbon conversion reactor” system.

This produces ethanol which, when combined with water, forms a type of vodka.

The only drawback to the system is that, while good for the environment, Air Company’s special vodka is not cheap to make — at $65 (£52) per bottle, it is a luxury product.

However, this has not deterred customers at Bathtub Gin, a bar in lower Manhattan, New York City, which carries the carbon dioxide-derived spirit.

Bathtub Gin’s head bartender and beverage director is Brendan Bartley.

He told CNBC: “Once we tell them, ‘hey, this is how it’s made and it’s got a negative carbon footprint, all those really beautiful things’ … [customers] want it even more.

“And then they go looking for it, going: ‘Where can we get it?’ ”

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Air Company’s ambitions do not stop with vodka, however — the three-year-old start-up also produces perfume and hand sanitiser from carbon dioxide emissions.

The firm is also about to open its third facility, after which Mr Constantine says he expects to be able to begin manufacturing more types of products.

He added: “Vodka for us is really a gateway towards all the other products and then the industrial applications of where our technology can go.”

Air Company — which has raised in excess of $40 million (£32 million) — is backed by Toyota Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Parley for the Oceans and Carbon Direct Capital Management.

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