Newlight Technologies: Tech Innovation
Company: Newlight Technologies, LLC, Irvine, CA
Company Description: Newlight has invented and commercialized a game- changing carbon capture technology: on a large- scale basis, Newlight is sequestering carbon emissions to produce bioplastic that is as strong as oil-based plastic and significantly more cost- effective. Newlight recently scaled to commercial scale production, and is now delivering carbon- capturing plastics to over 25 customers in 9 market segments.
Nomination Category: Company / Organization Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Tech Innovation of the Year - At Organizations With Up to 100 Employees
Nomination Title: The Commercial Scale-Up of Carbon-Negative Plastic
1. Tell the story about this nominated achievement since January 1 2013 (up to 525 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:
Plastic is supposed to be bad. It is made from oil, it generates carbon emissions, and it chokes our environment with pollution. Even “bioplastic”, which can be made from food crops like corn, is simply supposed to be “less bad,” perhaps generating less environmental damage. But, what if plastic could be more than that? What if, instead of just being “less bad,” plastic could actually improve the environment? Can we imagine a world in which, the more plastic we make, the better the environment becomes?
Newlight Technologies was founded in 2003 with a simple mission: to pull carbon out of greenhouse gas emissions and use that carbon to produce high-performance, cost-effective, carbon-negative plastic. We believed then, as we do today, that the most sustainable way to reverse climate change is to turn carbon emissions into materials that can out-compete existing oil-based materials on price, thereby creating a market-driven solution to reduce atmospheric carbon.
Despite the conceptual simplicity of this founding principle, the science to make it a reality had never been achieved, despite decades of work.
The critical challenge was cost: prior to Newlight, the cost to produce plastic from air and greenhouse gases was three times higher than the cost to produce plastic from oil—an economic non-starter. Newlight’s task was to invent technology to dramatically lower the cost of converting carbon emissions into plastic.
After many years of work, endless obstacles, and millions of dollars in research and development, we finally achieved our core breakthrough: an engineered biocatalyst able to produce plastic from carbon gas at extremely high yield—approximately nine times higher than had ever been achieved previously. With this breakthrough, Newlight’s process economics changed dramatically.
Today, ten years, ten patents, and $10 million after our founding, Newlight Technologies is proud to be the first company in the world to manufacture and sell cost-effective carbon-negative plastic—plastic made by combining air with greenhouse gas that reduces the amount of carbon inthe air, matches the performance of oil-based plastic, and can significantly out-compete oil-based plastic on price.
2013 was a breakthrough year for Newlight.
In August 2013, after ten years of lab, pilot, and demonstration scale operations, Newlight scaled up its patented greenhouse gas-to-plastic production process to commercial scale at a four-story, multi-million pound per year production facility in California, converting carbon emissions that would otherwise become part of the air into cost-effective carbon-negative AirCarbon thermoplastic that can out-compete oil-based plastic on price and performance.
Also in 2013, Newlight was pleased to launch the company's first commercial product, the AirCarbon chair, at the Greenbuild International Conference in Philadelphia with partner company KI. The AirCarbon chair is the world's first chair made from carbon sequestration that generates a net positive environmental impact while out-competing oil-based alternatives on price and performance.
Following the launch of the AirCarbon chair, Newlight is now working with over 25 customers in 9 market segments to launch carbon-negative AirCarbon products: products that maintain performance, significantly reduce cost, harness a local resource, reduce our dependence on oil, and reverse the flow of carbon.
In recognition of the company's commercialization achievements, Newlight was named "Most Innovative Company of the Year" in 2013 and AirCarbon was named "Tech Innovation of the Year" in 2013.
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Provide a brief (up to 125 words) biography about the leader of this nominated organization:
Mark Herrema is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Newlight Technologies.
Since co-founding Newlight in 2003, Mark has grown Newlight from a scientific concept into a revenue-generating commercial enterprise pulling carbon from the air to produce award-winning carbon-negative plastics. Along the way, Mark has invented a range of greenhouse gas-to-plastic conversion technologies, receiving ten US and international patents, while steering Newlight through over $10 million in private placement offerings, executing a range of strategic partnerships with brand-name market leaders, and leading the engineering, construction, and expansion of Newlight’s carbon capture production platform.
Mark graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Political Theory, with additional work in Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry.