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Etosha Cave

PhD ’15, Mechanical Engineering
Story originally published on May 2017
What if we could rewrite the story of waste CO2? What if we could use metal catalysts to reduce emissions in the chemicals and fuels industries?

While working on my PhD at Stanford, I was doing research to engineer metal catalysts that could take carbon dioxide and water and turn these elements into plastics, diesel fuel, household cleaners, etc. The big idea behind this work is to create economic value for carbon dioxide waste. Instead of just sending it off into the world as pollution, I’m compelled by the question: How can we repurpose CO2?

In 2015, my labmate and I, along with a colleague at the business school, started a company called Opus 12. Twelve is an homage to carbon 12, the common isotope of carbon, and “Opus” is a reference to our desire to rewrite the story of carbon dioxide. We’re continuing the work of developing metal catalysts to scale this research and, ideally, to get to a point where we could make diesel fuel from CO2 and water in a way that is cost-effective and helps improve energy efficiency.

I grew up in Houston, Texas, and you hear a lot about oil and gas and its role in society. I always felt like we could do something better with waste from oil and gas. Tom Jaramillo was my advisor while I was at Stanford and his thinking about how to take waste CO2 and create something out of it was exactly what I was looking for.

There are still many, many miles to go, but I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. What started as a research idea has become a prototype, and we’re now talking with manufacturing partners to build our first product. I’m proud of the way we are pushing science forward.

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