Space tech start-up discovers path to carbon-free iron production
Helios secures $6 million in seed funding, on the path to developing on-site resources for the Moon, their scientists discover a new approach to producing green iron – at a 20% lower cost
TEL AVIV, Israel, July 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Helios announces that its ambition to create an emissions-free future for the steel industry will be fueled by $6 million in capital, thanks to a funding round led by At One Ventures, the “net positive to nature” investment company, and Doral Energy-Tech Ventures. Deep tech investor Metaplanet and a global Top 5 mining company are also participating in this round.
Current steel production methods emit large amounts of CO2 through the reduction of iron ore with carbon. For every ton of steel, approximately 2 tons of CO2 are emitted, making the industry responsible for 8% of humanity’s carbon footprint. In addition, the American steel industry depends on natural gas, coal coke and breeze as fuel, representing about 6% of the total energy consumed by manufacturing.
Yet efforts to decarbonize the industry through methods such as H2 injection, carbon capture and electrolysis will increase the cost of production, making adoption by major manufacturers difficult to justify.
“The steel industry is extremely cost-sensitive,” says Professor Raúl Topolevsky, senior adviser to steelmakers and industry expert. “Many companies are now committing to reducing their emissions with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in all their operations by a certain date. But “green steel” often has a high price, and if their costs increase, it negatively affects the whole economy.
Helios, led by the founder and CEO Jonathan Geifman, was not intended to produce green steel at a lower cost. The company’s original purpose – and still is – to produce oxygen to support recurring missions to the moon by producing it on site. Their proprietary technology extracts oxygen from lunar regolith, the mixture of powdery dust and broken rock on the surface of the moon.
“On the moon, we don’t have the luxury of using carbon for power, you have to be extremely efficient and not waste anything or emit anything,” Geifman said. “The extraterrestrial environment really pushes your R&D to the limit. You can’t be iterative and have to reinvent processes entirely. That’s how we came up with this completely new extraction method that we quickly realized was would also benefit life on earth.”
“It’s fascinating to me that while Helios was focused on creating technologies to advance sustainable Moon missions and habitation – literally taking its ‘moon shot’ – they came across this brand new process for the benefit of life on earth,” said Uri Oron, director of the Israeli Space Agency at the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology. “This is a great example of the close connection between space technology and its impact on our lives here on Earth,” he added.
Helios scientists discovered that the technology created for the reactor built to extract oxygen and iron from regolith could also be used to extract 99% pure iron from iron ore, using an entirely new chemical process. The method requires 50% less energy than is currently used in industry, while operating at temperatures so low that a domestic oven will suffice to initiate the process.
Unlike other green steel technologies, Helios does not require steelmakers to drastically alter their existing processes. The company designs a module that can be integrated into Direct Iron Reduction (DRI) furnaces. This approach will reduce costs and facilitate faster adoption.
“Given the frictionless integration approach and superior unit economics compared to conventional approaches to iron reduction, we saw in Helios the potential to impact steelmaking and decarbonize the industry. faster than existing technologies,” said Laurie Menoud, Partner, At One Ventures. “We believe they will achieve their primary goal of enabling sustainable human life in space, but in the meantime they are enabling sustainable human life here on earth.”
Helios will leverage the new funding to demonstrate its technology on a larger scale, comparable to industry standards. In addition, it will enter into commercial agreements to build pilot plants on a global scale, with the capacity to produce several tons of iron per day, as well as to improve the integration of its technology into the production chain.
For more information visit https://www.project-helios.space/
About At One Ventures
At One Ventures invests in high-tech start-ups catalyzing a world where humanity is a net positive for nature. The company is very technical and was founded by Tom Chi, former Chief Experience Officer and founding member of Google X. At One Ventures finds, funds and grows companies that use disruptive deep technologies to disrupt the unit economics of established industries while dramatically reducing their planetary footprint. visit https://www.atoneventures.com/.
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