Estonian CleanTech UP Catalyst Launched One-of-a-kind Portable Synthesis Reactor for Utilising CO2 Emissions 

By , in CleanTech Estonia on .

UP Catalyst, an Estonian clean technology company, has transformed its sustainable carbon material production into a portable container unit. The new setup utilises 3.7 tons of industrial CO2 per every ton of critical battery raw materials produced. 

With the introduction of the Generation 2 reactor, UP Catalyst has achieved a significant milestone in scaling up their technology, enabling the production of essential materials on a ton-scale. 

UP Catalyst team
UP Catalyst team

Emerging from research conducted at the University of Tartu, the engineers at UP Catalyst have spent years developing the most efficient method for harnessing CO2 emissions to produce critical raw materials, such as graphite, for electric vehicle batteries.

When scaling up, you scale both the good and the bad. Therefore, you cannot scale from kg-scale production to full size factory as there are many intermediate steps where you can fail.

The GEN2 reactor is one of these intermediate steps on our way to satisfying European demand for sustainable carbon materials.

explained UP Catalyst’s production manager, Sander Trofimov.
GEN2 technology explained

UP Catalyst’s graphite carbon footprint produced on ton-scale marks just 0.07 kg of CO₂ emitted per kg of material produced versus 13.8 kilograms of CO2 per kg, the industry average. For carbon nanotubes, the difference is even more significant – 0.7 kg for UP Catalyst versus 170 kg of CO2 per kg, which is emitted by conventional production methods. This is the first portable synthesis reactor that enables the production of carbon materials with a carbon-neutral footprint, thus relieving EU dependence on foreign fossil fuel-based imports.  

The system is also attractive for industrial partners seeking to utilise their CO2 emissions, potentially eliminating the need to purchase allowances from the EU ETS or alleviating the burden of carbon taxes.  

By 2030, the EU will require 3 million tons of carbon materials for EV batteries. Despite the potential to utilise 11 million tons of CO₂ through existing technology to meet this demand, the EU invests into storing its CO₂ underground and relies on importing fossil-based carbon materials from China.

While the current scale may not fully meet the demand, ultimately, the pace of expansion comes down to the investment decision of industrial partners and the EU legislation, which allows us to scale up faster.

The technology is there, and the plan is to scale up further to utilise at least 200 thousand tons of CO2 annually by 2030.

says Dr Gary Urb, CEO of UP Catalyst.

If there was a green technology at scale that enables us to lower our carbon emissions while meeting our production needs, we would definitely look into partnership. Collaborations like these are crucial for achieving both environmental and industrial goals.

remarked Innar Kaasik, the COO of renewable energy production company Enefit Green

The development of the container reactor received significant support from the EIT Raw Materials and European partners, including Riga Technical University and the Research Institute of Sweden, which contributed to its design and construction. The University of Bologna conducted material characterization, while UniverCell Holding GmbH and Battery tested battery cells using CO2-based carbon materials. 

The official GEN2 reactor was launched on the 23rd of May during the flagship tech event Latitude59 in Tallinn, Estonia.