"Shampoo. Antifreeze. Food packaging. Electronics, textiles and building
materials. These things and so many more all have one common ingredient: they
contain ethylene, the world’s most widely produced and widely used
petrochemical, which is used to help make products lightweight, durable or
But producing conventional ethylene releases enormous amounts of greenhouse
gases that contribute to the climate crisis. Not only does ethylene use fossil
fuels, predominantly natural gas, as a constituent raw material, it also uses
fossil fuels as the energy source for its production.
“For every tonne of ethylene, one to two tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted
through the conventional manufacturing process,” says Dr Christine Gabardo, a
former postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, who is pioneering a
breakthrough innovation that makes ethylene without fossil fuels and is ready
to scale it up commercially.
Gabardo co-founded CERT Systems Inc, a startup that’s developing the
cutting-edge technology necessary to remove fossil fuels both as constituent
raw materials of ethylene, as well as from the carbon intensive processes
required to produce it.
“Global producers create around 200m tonnes per year of ethylene and that’s
expected to grow significantly over the next decade, because ethylene is such
an important building block molecule that goes into so many downstream
products,” she says.
Now CERT’s chief technology officer, Gabardo explains that the team has been
able to create ethylene using a process called CO2 electrolysis that works at
ambient temperatures and the only energy input is renewable electricity. Copper
forms the basis of a catalyst that splits water and carbon dioxide, then
converts them into hydrocarbons such as ethylene. There are no harmful
emissions and all the chemical by-products can be used by various industrial
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics