Carbon bug
To:Brew Readers
Emerging Tech Brew // Morning Brew // Update
Using microbes to upcycle CO2.
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Morning Brew May 02, 2022

Emerging Tech Brew

Workiva

Good Monday morning. We know it’s hard to ease back into the week after a few days off, so our gift to you: a reason to procrastinate for three more minutes this morning.

In the interest of getting to know all of you, our dear readers, a bit better, we put together this quick survey to learn more about who you are and what you want to read about. And as if that was not incentive enough, completing the survey also gives you a chance to win a $500 AmEx gift card or score free tickets to the Emerging Tech Brew Summit in September.

In today’s edition:
🕷 The “bug” that turns emissions into useful chemicals
Battery month in review
Coworking

Grace Donnelly, Dan McCarthy, Hayden Field

CLIMATE TECH

Microbial mitigation

products floating out of smoke stacks Francis Scialabba

Efforts are underway to scale carbon-capture and carbon-removal technology, but once we can catch gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, we have to figure out what to do with it.

One option is permanent storage solutions, such as sequestering CO2 underground. Another route is upcycling captured CO2 and using it to make products that rely on fossil fuels today. This process is known as carbon utilization, and people have lots of ideas for how to make it sexy: You can turn captured CO2 into diamonds, or vodka, or little black dresses.

Zoom in: LanzaTech is one of the companies working to recycle carbon. Since its founding in 2005, the Chicago-based company has worked with consumer brands to use captured carbon to make products ranging from perfume to laundry detergent.

  • LanzaTech announced in March that it would go public via a SPAC deal that values it at more than $2 billion.

Eating carbon

Today, LanzaTech is working primarily to convert waste gases emitted by industrial processes. LanzaTech typically licenses its technology so that companies can build its bioreactors alongside industrial facilities and feed the waste from the site to its microbes, which it refers to endearingly as its “bug.”

LanzaTech’s biggest challenge right now is meeting demand, according to Tom Dower, vice president of public policy at LanzaTech. While the company brought in nearly $19 million in revenue in 2020, it ended the year with about $40 million in net losses.

  • LanzaTech expects revenue to increase to $65 million this year, reach profitability in 2023, and grow profits to more than $250 million by 2025, according to its SEC filings.

Big picture: There’s no question that there needs to be rapid decarbonization to meet climate goals. At the same time, there are some hard-to-abate sectors, like steel, cement, and chemicals, which account for the majority of the heavy industrial emissions that make up about 40% of total CO2 emissions, according to Brookings.

To some extent, these sectors will continue to emit carbon even as the energy transition progresses over the next few decades, Dower said.

“We have so many industrial sources of carbon that are polluting today and will continue to pollute, whether we want them to or not, for the next 10, 20, 30 years. And some of these have really high concentrations of CO2. Like a cement plant, like a corn ethanol facility—basically straight CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said.

Keep reading here.GD

        

BATTERIES

Battery month, in review

Battery month, in review Francis Scialabba

It’s our first edition in May, which means battery month is behind us, but fear not—the battery coverage will keep on comin’, even if at a slightly slower pace.

Below is a quick rundown of everything we covered last month, or you can view it on-site here.

Can quantum computing fuel a leap in battery tech? The batteries of the future will need to weigh less, charge faster, and last longer. Researchers today are testing new chemistries, but some hope the current process could be revolutionized by a technology still in its infancy: quantum computing.

This will is the first year battery prices are expected to rise in over a decade. After more than a decade of cost declines, the most expensive component of electric vehicles is getting pricier. The average price of a lithium-ion battery pack has dropped nearly 90% from 2010 to 2020, but now that trend could reverse. Even so, experts don’t expect to see much of an impact on the projected battery trends over the next 10 or 20 years.

Forget EVs. What about stationary storage? Batteries can provide the grid or individual buildings with reliable backup power and also help smooth out the use of renewables, which generate energy intermittently. While the vast majority of today’s existing energy storage is handled by pumped hydro projects, lithium-ion batteries are growing super fast—they made up about 93% of all stationary storage installations in 2020, according to the IEA.

The hottest battery chemistry in town, explained. Driven by a combination of factors, including rising materials costs, safety considerations, and engineering advancements, the long-ignored LFP battery chemistry has been gaining traction at a surprising pace. It became the dominant chemistry for batteries produced for Chinese EVs last year, and automakers in the US and Europe are also signaling a shift.

Also…ICYMI, we dedicated an entire edition of the newsletter to batteries in early April. It includes some basic explainers and news roundups, if that’s your jam.

+ While we’re here…Hit Reply to let us know what you thought of our battery-focused stories in April, and what other battery topics you’d like to see us tackle in the months to come.

TOGETHER WITH WORKIVA

Talkin’ tech, trust, and ESG transformation

Workiva

As finance, accounting, risk, compliance, and sustainability roles—whew—all evolve to meet public expectations around ESG performance, it’s time for organizations to step up and shape their futures for the better.

All this to say, there are plenty of important convos to be had. Watch one of ’em May 24, when corporate strategist, strategic futurist, and best-selling author Nancy Giordano sits down with Workiva for this must-see webinar: Creating the Future We Want with Tech, Trust, and True ESG.

They’ll dive into how the right tech can accelerate positive transformations and build trust in decision-making data, creating a stronger future for all of us.

If you’re unavailable during the live event, hold the FOMO—Workiva will email the recording to ya.

Just register here.

READER SPOTLIGHT

Coworking with...Marchela Georgieva

Coworking with...Marchela Georgieva Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: Marchela Georgieva

Coworking is a weekly segment where we spotlight Emerging 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’m on a mission to get people [to love] their work. And so, I automate the tasks and processes that aren’t worth people’s time and energy. We do this by designing, building, and managing digital workers—open-source robots—who would take over any manual process or repetitive…task, so people can create, innovate, and do purposeful work instead. It’s robotic process automation, or RPA, but open-source as opposed to proprietary.

What’s your favorite emerging tech project you’ve worked on?

Honestly, it’s simple, but I love automating companies’ hassles with email and Excel. We all spend too much time going over emails, sorting out attachments, and getting lost in spreadsheets. Taking all of that away with smart automation puts a happy smile on my face, knowing how much time I’m saving other people, so they can be invested in something else that’s meaningful and fun. One of our biggest projects, especially for Excel and email, was working with a multinational manufacturing company headquartered in France.

What emerging tech are you most optimistic about? Least? And why?

I’m most optimistic about all innovative technologies that seek to reverse or slow down global warming because, helped by the recent IPCC report, we have finally reached the point where, at large, we acknowledge and accept responsibility for the climate disaster we have contributed towards and can finally focus completely on making a difference in the opposite direction.

I’m least optimistic about NFTs because the whole purpose of art is to be owned, touched, and admired. I also question if the NFTs’ ownership is really non-fungible and if, as owners, we can ever find the same enjoyment as we do with physical art.

One thing we can’t guess from your LinkedIn profile?

Last fall, I became a proud auntie of the cutest little princess. I’m also a keen mountaineer, and I spend a lot of time hiking solo in Nepal.

        

FROM THE CREW

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What’s more, MB/L helps you build authentic relationships with your fellow students that go beyond the virtual classroom. To top it all off, access to alumni benefits means your professional growth won’t stop at graduation.

Download the syllabus now to find out everything you’ll learn in Morning Brew Leadership. (Psst: You can also save $500 on tuition if you join our founding cohort!)

BITS AND BYTES

Meta logo image Nurphoto/Getty Images

Stat: Meta’s Reality Labs division—aka, its metaverse segment—grew revenue 30% year over year in Q1, from $534 million last year to $695 million in 2022. But it lost nearly $3 billion on the segment, up from $1.8 billion the year before.

Quote: Speaking of Meta…“Later this year, we’ll release a higher-end headset, code named Project Cambria, which will be more focused on work use cases and eventually replacing your laptop or work setup.”—Mark Zuckerberg, in a post-earnings Facebook post

Read: A synthetic-fuel startup has promised revolutionary things. Experts are skeptical it can deliver.

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WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Climate tech that could actually make a difference, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Snap debuted a “minidrone” called Pixy, which can flutter around your head and take pictures and videos of you.
  • Apple’s autocorrect technology has evolved quite a bit over the years.
  • Starlink has become a lifeline for some Ukrainians.

TECH TRIVIA

News quiz branding Francis Scialabba

Click here to test your knowledge of batteries, cutting-edge chips, and more.

MARKET RESEARCH

For all the progress in the US EV landscape, the country is still not on track to create a net-zero transportation sector by 2050, per a new report from the ICF. Let’s review the report’s findings…

  • Existing state-level policies: Will only achieve a 27% decline in on-road transportation emissions by 2050, compared to 2020.
  • If…The country transitions to 100% EV sales, it could result in a 67% decrease in on-road transportation emissions by 2050.
  • If…The country transitions to 100% EV sales and those EVs are powered by a clean-energy grid, on-road transportation emissions could drop 82% in 2050 compared to 2020.

Zoom out: In 2020, transportation accounted for 27% of total US greenhouse-gas emissions, making it the biggest single contributor, per the EPA.

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Written by Grace Donnelly, Dan McCarthy, and Hayden Field

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