Dioxycle, the breakthrough technology that recycles CO2 on a large scale

Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. What if the solution to drastically reduce our CO2 emissions was based on Lavoisier’s famous maxim? This is in any case the bias taken by Sarah Lamaison and David Wakerley, co-founders of the startup Dioxycle. Their innovation: to offer manufacturers a solution for recycling the CO2 they emit, to transform it into recoverable hydrocarbons. An idea born on the benches of the prestigious University of Cambridge almost 6 years ago.

mimic photosynthesis

When she joined the famous English university in 2016, Sarah Lamaison did not yet know that she would meet her future partner there. But it is moving forward with one certainty: it will do its part in the fight against climate change. In her early twenties, this native of the Basque Country then pursued a brilliant career in Cambridge – after Polytechnique and Paris Saclay – to study photosynthetic systems there.

David Wakerley is about to complete a thesis there on hydrogen. The two comrades compare their work and set themselves a challenge: why not try to transform CO2 as plants do, using the technique of electrolysis? It’s decided, they will now make common cause, developing their CO2 electrocatalysis solution first at the Collège de France, then at Stanford.

It is a question of no longer considering carbon dioxide as a waste, but rather as a resource. Today, manufacturers who want to reduce the impact of their CO2 emissions generally have two solutions: offset these emissions by planting trees that will store the CO2 through photosynthesis, or sequester the CO2 emitted by burying them. However, the electrocatalysis of CO2 offers a third way, which makes it possible to transform it into economically recoverable molecules: methane, carbon monoxide or other hydrocarbons », they explain to La Tribune.

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A nugget that hits the mark across the Atlantic

We very quickly perceived the challenges that arose in terms of the industrialization of our solution, there was a gap to fill between the world of fundamental research and that of industry. “recalls Sarah Lamaison. Hence the desire to quickly set up a startup to develop their project and find industrial partners willing to test it on a large scale.

And it is in Bordeaux that they decide to put down their suitcases, to set up Dioxycle there at the end of 2020. A return to their roots for the young entrepreneur, but not only. As an early member of the association “from the Basque Country to the Grandes Ecoles”, founded by Bixente Etchecaharreta for ” bring out a whole generation that is committed to the territories “, Sarah Lamaison is keen to “ bring to the region what[elle] was able to learn abroad “. ” A bit like the Basque corsairs who go to sea and end up not returning home! she smiles.

The rest, we know: their prototype, developed in the laboratory of the Institute of Condensed Matter Chemistry in Bordeaux (ICMB) and the Paul Pascal Research Center in Pessac, hit the mark. He even appeals to the organization Breakthrough Energy, founded by Bill Gates, who selected Dioxycle in October 2021 to join the BE Fellows cohort, a small international group of nine companies committed to disruptive technologies particularly innovative and promising.

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A first proof of concept delivered in January

Since then, the startup has moved to the Cheminnov site of Unitec, and delivered its first pre-industrial processing unit in January. One more step in the change of scale that it promises to the market: ” We are now able to convert between 10 and 50kg of CO2 per day; this is 1500 times greater than the scale of the laboratory prototype “says Sarah Lamaison. Already committed with a chemical manufacturer “on a feasibility study, the partners are still looking for partners” to deploy more prototypes “.

And to support this scaling up, it’s time to recruit. The team, currently made up of six people, including the two co-founders, will have almost doubled in May, since five engineers are preparing to join the startup. ” We want to be around 20 by the end of the year », adds Sarah Lamaison, in search « process engineers… and a director of financial affairs! “.

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The “10,000 startups to change the world” prize is the biggest startup competition in France. It is organized by La Tribune in partnership with BNP Paribas, the French Tech Mission, Bpifrance, Business France, the Overseas Ministry, Dalkia and the National Order of Chartered Accountants.

“10,000 startups to change the world” has been rewarding the most promising French startups for 10 years in six categories that embody the challenges of tomorrow: Environment & Energy, Industry of the future, Data & IA, Smart tech -innovations in use-, Health and Start – nuggets in the seed phase. During a tour of France between January and March in 8 French cities (Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Paris, Strasbourg and Lille), its jury of experts and journalists rewarded 6 startups in each region, a by category, i.e. 48 regional winners.

These winners competed in the final on March 14 in Paris, to designate among them 9 national grand prizes: one per category, as well as a Coup de Coeur prize, an Impact prize and an International prize.

A 10th prize was also awarded to a startup from the Overseas Territories, among three award-winning nuggets in Reunion, in the Caribbean zone (Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana) and in the Polynesia zone (Tahiti, New Caledonia).

The 10 prizes were awarded on March 28, 2022 at the Grand Rex in Paris. After its victory in the Bordeaux regional selection, Dioxycle is the national winner in the Environment & Energy category.