Converting harmful emissions into commodities
Summary of Big Idea
The extraction and consumption of fossil carbon to run our daily lives accounts for over 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, driving climate change. By not viewing fossil fuels and feedstocks through a “circular economy” lens, companies “throw away” approximately US$50 billion each year in potential profit from what could be made with waste carbon dioxide such as methanol. HI-Light is a solar-thermal chemical reactor technology for converting carbon dioxide into fuels like syngas or methanol. The technology seeks to achieve a kind of artificial photosynthesis inside a factory or a power plant – combining sunlight, carbon dioxide and chemicals to photo-catalytically produce renewable fuel. Our technique makes carbon dioxide capture and conversion more economical. The current conversion of carbon dioxide into useful chemicals by weight is a very small percent of the close to two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants in the United States alone. HI-Light’s “reverse combustion” technology converts carbon dioxide into high-value hydrocarbons, increasing its value as a commodity. The unique design feature of our reactor is the optimized light delivery coupled with opto-thermal heating to reach elevated temperatures where reaction rates are higher.
I am a Ph.D. student at Cornell University, and was selected as a Local Pathways Fellow by SDSN Youth. I was among the “30 Under 30” in Energy by Forbes Magazine, and “EarthX 30 Under 30” by the American Conservation Coalition. I was also listed as a national finalist in Lemelson-MIT Student Prize by the Lemelson Foundation. I have a dual bachelor’s degree from Xi’an Jiaotong University and a Master’s degree from McGill University.