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Fuel from solar energy and air - Finnish startup gets funding

Work by startup firm Soletair Power is considered an important step towards establishing carbon neutral societies.

Soletair Powerin havainnekuvio laitteiston toiminnasta.
A concept illustration of Soletair Power's process. Image: Soletair Power Oy

The technology group Wärtsilä is providing 500,000 euros in seed funding to Soletair Power Oy, a Finnish startup company that has developed a concept to improve air quality in buildings by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) and converting it to a synthetic renewable fuel.

Based in the southeastern city of Lappeenranta, Soletair has tested a plant that uses solar power for separating carbon dioxide and water from the air, producing hydrogen, and then synthesising a crude-oil substitute from the carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

The company has now developed a device for installation in the ventilation systems of buildings.

"Our intention is to make buildings carbon sinks," explains CEO Petri Laakso.

The end product of the process is the formation of hydrocarbons that can be used as synthetic fuel.

"It can be used to make, for example, natural gas," says Laakso.

The process also generates waste heat that can be used for purposes like heating water.

The system is based on technologies developed at the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Better indoor air

According to Petri Laakso the production of fuel is not, at least yet, a significant economic factor for the adoption of Soletair Power's system.

He sees the biggest immediate benefit in the improvement of indoor air quality by reducing the level of carbon dioxide. This, he says, could be a boon to companies in keeping employees more alert.

"For example, people can start to tire in a conference room when the level of carbon dioxide goes up. This is a way to prevent that by keeping the air fresh. Productivity improves when minds are alert," Laakso points out.

Announcing its funding decision, Wärtsilä described the concept as representing an important step towards carbon-neutral societies.

Soletair Power will next launch a pilot installation. Petri Laakso says that several alternative sites are being considered, but that he expects the project to move ahead no later than by this coming summer.

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