'It works like a dish sponge': a new way to capture carbon from the ocean

Gaurav Sant, founder of startup SeaChange, tells Eco-Business about a technology he hopes will give the world's oceans the capacity to absorb additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

If the world is to stand any chance of capping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030 — the target set by the scientists behind the Paris climate accord — technology must be developed that can literally suck planet-warming carbon out of the atmosphere.

Gaurav Sant, a professor at the University of California, has another idea for capturing carbon — sucking it out of the ocean.

Sant, and his colleague Camly Tran, are founders of SeaChange, a startup that has developed technology that converts dissolved carbon dioxide in sea water into solid carbonates. The extracted minerals can be used to make construction materials such as concrete and cement.

“It works like a dish sponge. When you do your dishes, you get a wet sponge. When you wring it out, it’s ready to absorb more water,” Sant explained. “We’re trying to give the world’s oceans the capacity to absorb additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

SeaChange’s technology won the 2021 edition of The Liveability Challenge, a global competition to find solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems. In June, it was deployed by Singapore’s national water agency in a $2.5 million trial to test the viability of the technology.

We’re trying to give the world’s oceans the capacity to absorb additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Gaurav Sant, co-founder, SeaChange

Critics have cast doubt over the effectiveness of carbon capture technologies, because they are expensive, energy-intensive, and have yet to achieve scale.

But Sant says his solution has the potential to be “truly transformative at a global scale”.

Sant’s ambition is for multiple plants to be deployed around the world, with each plant capable of capturing millions of tonnes of carbon.

“We’ve got to take a step back and imagine the scale of this [climate] challenge. We’ve got to remove about 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year for the next 50 to 100 years. It’s going to take thousands of plants to do this,” he said.

Watch the video to find out more about how the technology works, how Sant and his team plan to use the funds secured at The Liveability Challenge, and how he hopes to achieve scale.

This story is part of a series of stories on The Liveability Challenge, an annual search for solutions to make Southeast Asia’s cities cleaner, greener places to live and work.

Did you find this article useful? Help us keep our journalism free to read.

We have a team of journalists dedicated to providing independent, well-researched stories from around the region on the topics that matter to you. Consider supporting our brand of purposeful journalism with a donation and keep Eco-Business free for all to read. Thank you.

Most popular

More from The Liveability Challenge

A smallholder farmer in Central Kalimantan prepares seedlings for planting
A German startup is aiming to scale its social forestry model in Indonesia with the help of the country's huge timber concession holders. CFO Paul Schüller says his firm can reverse deforestation by giving local communities a sustainable livelihood of timber, cash crops and carbon credits.
Liveability Challenge_Fairventures
Fairventures, an agroforestry management system, was awarded top prize in the annual search for solutions to the toughest sustainability challenges of our time.
NEU Battery Materials founders Kenneth Palmer and Bryan Oh
Lithium shortages are straining supply chains for electric vehicle batteries. Entrepreneur Bryan Oh, co-founder of a low-waste, low-emissions lithium recycling firm, wants to be the world's largest lithium company without ever owning a mine.
The Liveability Challenge 2022 edition
From cultivated meat to carbon measurement, sustainability innovation competition The Liveability Challenge 2022 attracted more than 400 applications from more than 60 countries. This year's finalists are from Asia and Europe.
leaf background pattern

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Join the Ecosystem →

Strategic Organisations

Reneum
Danfoss
Trucost
ESG Book
Olam
City Developments Ltd