This US startup is making vodka from CO2

A drinks startup in New York is hoping to combat CO2 emissions by selling vodka distilled with carbon dioxide instead of yeast.

(Photo: Air Co.)

The spirit made from air contains “no impurities, no carbohydrates, no sugar,” and “no gluten,” and is carbon negative, according to Air Co, a “technology and lifestyle company” in New York, US.

Stafford Sheehan, an electrochemist and co-founder of the project, said his technology is “inspired by photosynthesis” in nature, and uses “carbon dioxide and water along with electricity to create alcohol.”

“[Plants] take up water, and they use energy in the form of sunlight to make things like sugars and to make other higher-value hydrocarbons, with oxygen as the sole by-product. Same thing with our process: The only by-product is oxygen.”

The company captures CO2 emissions from nearby factories to make the spirit, which will be listed at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York such as Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern.

Sheenan, a chemical physics PhD from Yale University, and fellow founder Gregory Constantine, a former marketing lead at Diageo-owned vodka brand Smirnoff, met during a Forbes Under 30 Summit in 2017, and bonded over their desire to develop a value-driven startup.

“On the side I was working on carbon dioxide conversion and, when we met, I wanted to get more into fighting climate change on a bigger scale than tinkering in a laboratory,” Sheenan told Forbes.

As well as harnessing carbon emissions from local factories (including some distillers), the startup’s technology is also solar-powered. The pair have kept distribution local to minimise their own carbon emissions, and claim theirs is the first “carbon negative” vodka as a result.

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