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Bringing Technology to Environmental Science

Episode 56

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Bringing Technology to Environmental Science

IT Visionaries producers Aaron Gerlitz and Hilary Giorgi interview Louise Charles who heads up communications for Climeworks, a carbon-capturing company based in Switzerland.

“When companies choose to use Climeworks, they are furthering the development of air-capture technology.” — Louise Charles of @Climeworks #ITVisionaries

Show Notes

On this special episode IT Visionaries producers Aaron Gerlitz and Hilary Giorgi interview Louise Charles who heads up communications for Climeworks (Twitter, LinkedIn), a carbon-capturing company based in Switzerland.

Louise discusses the origins of Climeworks, how they are using technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere and some of the biggest technical challenges facing their company, and the environmental IT industry as a whole.

Topics Discussed: Carbon capture, innovation, scaling, renewable energy,

Introducing Louise and Climeworks —(1:30)

  • Louise has been with Climeworks for a year and a half
  • Climeworks was founded in 2009 by Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald
    • Based in Zurich and have been scaling in a large way over the last 10 years.
  • Direct capture plants are capturing many thousands of tons of CO2 from the air

What Climeworks does in laymen’s terms — (3:35)

  • Climeworks builds big machines similar to oversized washing machines. Modules are called CO2 collectors and they have filter materials that selectively capture CO2 like a sponge captures water. Once collected, the CO2 can be resold as a raw material for uses in things like fertilizers, carbonation in drinks such as Coca-Cola, and renewable fuels.
  • CO2 can also be mixed with water, pumped underground and there it mineralizes and turns into stone.
  • “When companies choose to use Climeworks, they are furthering the development of air-capture technology.”

Scaling up and dealing with challenges — (8:15)

  • “We’ve been able to scale at a factor of about a billion in the last decade if you think of going from capturing milligrams to capturing tons of carbon every day.”
  • Challenges include dealing with short innovation cycles, figuring out how to focus your technology and when to shift focus, and looking for a strong network of partners to work with 
  • Companies and organizations have paid Climeworks to reverse their carbon footprint and help them become carbon neutral.

Finding the right talent — (10:50)

  • Without the team, the Climeworks technology would not be where it is today.
  • Currently, there are 60 employees throughout the company made up of many engineers, research and development professionals, marketing and sales people

How do you keep innovating? — (13:00)

  • Work on short innovation cycles to keep bringing out new generations of technology.
  • Design sprints and strategy workshops are put on throughout the year

Making sure the plants are running — (14:45)

  • Plants are built in a way so that they can be accessed remotely.
  • Engineers are on site and off-site the engineers check in to make sure that everything is running smoothly
  • There is a lot of technology working behind the scenes to make sure that the carbon is being captured and treated in the appropriate ways

The future of Climeworks — (18:00)

  • The ultimate goal is to be able to halt or reverse climate change.

Lightning Round — (19:05)

  • Uses Whatsapp to stay in touch with friends and family
  • Homo Deus

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IT Visionaries producers Aaron Gerlitz and Hilary Giorgi interview Louise Charles who heads up communications for Climeworks, a carbon-capturing company based in Switzerland.

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