☕ Corralling carbon
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Carbon capture catches on.
November 20, 2023

Tech Brew


It’s Monday. When it comes to combating the climate crisis, what’s more important: mitigating emissions or figuring out ways to extract carbon from the atmosphere? Tech Brew’s Patrick Kulp explored new advances on the carbon-capture side of the equation.

In today’s edition:

Patrick Kulp, Annie Saunders


Catching on

An aerial view of a coal power plant Walaiporn Sangkeaw/Getty Images

Whether through rocks or wood or algae, sucking carbon from the atmosphere has been a dream of certain climate scientists for years. And while much of the technology remains unproven or too expensive to work at scale, some major climate projections bank on solutions like these eventually being part of an emission-reduction toolkit.

In recent weeks, there’s been momentum toward potentially realizing that dream. Graphyte, a buzzy startup backed by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, announced what it claims is a durable and less-expensive strategy to store carbon with the help of bricks of biomass. Heirloom Carbon, another much-hyped startup in the space, opened the country’s first commercial carbon-capture plant in California’s Central Valley.

Both companies claim to use inexpensive, easily obtained materials—Graphyte’s biomass can come from farming and timber operations, while Heirloom taps the natural properties of limestone—and the ability to scale in a way that the tech has historically struggled to do.

Announcements like these mark a new phase for a technology that has become flush with government money through policies like the Inflation Reduction Act, according to PitchBook Data Senior Analyst John MacDonagh.

“We’re at the stage now where there’s obviously still a lot of development to do from a technological perspective. But we’re now starting to see, as we have this year, implementation and construction of mostly pilot plants,” MacDonagh told Tech Brew.

But the technology’s skeptics say all of this funding could be for naught if costs don’t come down and the efficiency necessary is never fully realized.

Keep reading here.—PK



Space rockets are…slowing us down?


There’s one you probably haven’t heard before.

But it’s true—rockets are a bottleneck in the future of space exploration. And Pipeline2Space is inviting investors on their mission to create something more efficient.

Traditional space launches are often expensive and unreliable, and they need to be scheduled months in advance. Pipeline2Space’s in-ground hypersonic launch system replaces the ol’ first-stage booster for a safer, lower-cost, on-demand space launch.

Did we mention it reaches speeds up to Mach 7?

The global market for the space economy is forecasted to grow to $1t by 2040. Act fast and become a Pipeline2Space shareholder before it takes off.


A new soundtrack

Laptop with music playing Hannah Minn

YouTube Music is passing the mic to AI with a new feature that will allow users to generate music in the style of pop stars like Sia, John Legend, and T-Pain—with the permission of the artists.

The tool, which draws on a Google DeepMind music generation model called Lyria, is designed to produce unique backing tracks for creators on the TikTok-esque YouTube shorts platform. It comes at a fraught time in relations between AI engineers and the artists and writers whose work their models rely on.

YouTube’s Dream Track feature can auto-generate 30-second audio clips based on a text prompt like “a ballad about how opposites attract, upbeat acoustic.” Nine artists signed on to have their vocal and instrumental likenesses cloned: Alec Benjamin, Charlie Puth, Charli XCX, Demi Lovato, John Legend, Papoose, Sia, T-Pain, and Troye Sivan.

Another YouTube tool, Music AI, can turn a hummed tune into a guitar riff or convert a song to a different genre. Google will also use its SynthID watermark to apply imperceptible-to-the-ear differentiation in tracks produced by the tools.

Battle of the bands: Creative and social platforms have been experimenting with generative AI music cloning since at least as far back as the 2020 release of OpenAI’s Jukebox program. But like much generative AI output, artificial music has hit new heights of passable realism in the last year or so, as exemplified by a fake Drake song that went viral in April.

That’s naturally led to tension among artists, the record industry, and tech companies looking to monetize this type of AI.

Keep reading here.—PK



Coworking with Sarah Guthals

Graphic featuring a headshot of Sentry's Sarah Guthals. Sarah Guthals

Coworking is a weekly segment where we spotlight Tech Brew readers who work with emerging technologies. Click here if you’d like a chance to be featured.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?

I lead a team of developers (coders) that creates content like blog posts, videos, and tutorials to teach other developers how to use Sentry to make the code they write more reliable. Sentry makes a tool that will let developers know when there are issues with their apps before we notice as users.

What’s the most compelling tech project you’ve worked on, and why?

This is a really tough question to answer because I’ve been lucky enough to work on some incredible tools. But as part of my doctorate, I built a 3D immersive video game designed for kids to use on their own to learn how to write code prior to the existence of Code.org and block-based coding languages like Scratch. It was an interesting technological problem—making a 3D immersive video game—with wild technical constraints: needing to work on the not-so-great classroom computers of the 2010s. The user constraints also posed a challenge: Children 9 to 10 years old often do not have a technical teacher in the classroom with them.

This project gave me a lot of experience that I have leveraged to build other apps, start and run a company, lead engineering teams, and now lead developer relations here at Sentry.

What technologies are you most optimistic about? Least? And why?

I’m most optimistic about technologies that bring more people into the field. This is always a contentious conversation to have, but it has been like this every time we are able to make contributing code open to more people with layers of abstraction. I’m sure in the 1950s Grace Hopper was told making one of the first linkers was just making it easier for people to mess things up, and that if a developer needs a linker, they aren’t a “real developer.”

Keep reading here.




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Stat: 6 million tons. That’s the amount of “tire wear particles” our cars and trucks emit every year, The Verge reported, citing data from Imperial College London, in a story about advancements in sustainable tires.

Quote: “Climate change is here…And we’re only going to make it worse by clinging to these very climate-unfriendly and unsustainable transportation habits of the 20th century.”—Austin City Council member Zohaib Qadri, to Grist in a story about eliminating policies requiring a minimum number of parking spaces

Read: What crash? Black people are still crypto’s biggest believers (Wired)

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