California-based Newlight, a company specializing in the production of sustainable plastics, has successfully closed a $125 million equity round led by GenZero. The company’s innovative technology aims to combat climate change by converting greenhouse gases into a valuable resource. Newlight utilizes a biological pathway inspired by nature, using microbes to transform captured carbon, air, and methane into degradable biomaterials known as AirCarbon®. This biomaterial, which can be used in various industries such as foodware and fashion, helps to decarbonize heavy plastic-consuming sectors.
GenZero, an investment platform company owned by Temasek, led the funding round, with participation from Oxy Low Carbon Ventures (OLCV) and Charter Next Generation (CNG). OLCV, a subsidiary of Occidental (Oxy), and CNG are both committed to supporting global decarbonization efforts and delivering scalable climate solutions. Mark Herrema, CEO of Newlight, expressed his gratitude for reaching this significant milestone, stating that the funding round represents a turning point for the company, allowing them to expand their biological decarbonization efforts on a large scale.
Newlight’s technology harnesses the power of nature to address two pressing environmental issues: global warming and plastic waste. The company employs a biological approach, utilizing microbes found in the oceans to convert greenhouse gases into polymers. These microorganisms consume greenhouse gases and produce a molecule called PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate) within their cells. PHB is a naturally occurring molecule used by living organisms as a source of energy and carbon storage. Once purified, PHB can be melted and molded, making it suitable for various material functions. AirCarbon, Newlight’s biomaterial, leverages the natural and high-performing qualities of PHB. It consists of approximately 40% oxygen and 60% carbon, making it easily biodegradable.
One of the key advantages of AirCarbon is its carbon-negative production process. When produced using renewable energy, the creation of AirCarbon captures or destroys more carbon dioxide than it emits. The carbon footprint of AirCarbon is certified by Carbon Trust as -87.76 kg CO2e/kg. Newlight has made significant technological advancements in the design, purification, and material performance of AirCarbon through their pilot plant, Eagle 3. This commercial-scale operation allows the company to produce a wide range of products, including fibers, sheets, and solid parts, as alternatives to synthetic plastics and animal leather.
Newlight currently supplies its AirCarbon-based materials to over 5,000 locations worldwide, serving customers in the food service, hotel, fashion, and automotive industries. The company’s focus is on producing Restore foodware, as food-related plastic waste is a major contributor to ocean pollution. Additionally, Newlight has introduced its Covalent brand, which focuses on utilizing AirCarbon in the fashion industry to produce sustainable materials. The recent $125 million investment will enable Newlight to expand its AirCarbon production globally, with plans to scale up production at its existing California facility and a new facility under construction in Ohio.
In addition to financial support, Newlight has formed partnerships with CNG and OLCV to further commercialize AirCarbon. CNG will collaborate with Newlight to develop specialty films made from AirCarbon, while OLCV will provide the company with Direct Air Capture (DAC) systems for AirCarbon production plants. OLCV is leading the construction of Stratos, the world’s largest DAC plant in Texas, and is also developing sequestration hubs along the Gulf Coast region. The goal of these collaborations is to deliver large-scale and rapid carbon removal solutions to combat the climate crisis. DAC technology offers innovative opportunities to utilize carbon as a raw material for the production of carbon-negative products. Both GenZero and OLCV recognize the significance of Newlight’s technology in meeting the demand for carbon-negative materials and accelerating the path to achieving net-zero emissions.
Newlight’s mission is to provide companies with a measurable and scalable approach to decarbonize their products and contribute to a net-zero world. By using AirCarbon to develop everyday products, the company aims to empower consumers to actively reduce carbon emissions. The innovative approach taken by Newlight in converting carbon into biomaterials marks a significant milestone in addressing both climate change and plastic waste. The $125 million investment will enable Newlight to scale up its production of carbon-negative materials on a global scale.