Newlight aims to help tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas levels through a carbon capture process. How could it track, independently verify, and communicate the impact of its process in a way that can scale globally?
Supportsreduction of greenhouse gases by converting them into new resources
Enablesmassive expansion, taking green technology to new enterprise clients globally
Empowersconsumers to make informed choices, with a verifiable record of the production process
Business challenge story
A new approach to tackling climate change
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind today. Scientists are predicting dire consequences as a direct result of global warming: drought, flooding, severe storms and disruption to food and water supplies. But what can we do to confront the problem? Newlight Technologies has developed a pathway that it believes can be part of the solution.
Mark Herrema, CEO and Co-founder of Newlight Technologies, explains: “Back in 2003, I read a Los Angeles Times article about methane from cows, and the sheer weight of carbon going into the air. At that time, people were talking about taxing carbon or burying it underground.
“But if you look at nature, greenhouse gas—carbon in the air and water—is the backbone of life: what trees and coral use to grow. So I teamed up with an old high school friend, and we thought, if nature can use greenhouse gas in a manner that reverses the flow of carbon out of the environment, why can’t we do something similar? Instead of villainizing greenhouse gas, what if we could transform it into valuable products? Starting in 2003, with hardware store parts, internet searches, and a lot to learn, we set out to see if we could turn our vision into reality.”
Over the next ten years, Newlight developed a technology that converts greenhouse gas directly into a high-value, naturally-occurring energy molecule that can be used to replace plastics, fibers, and other materials. The company’s bioconversion process uses renewably-sourced energy and greenhouse gas, such as methane sourced from landfill sites, abandoned coal mines, and farms, and converts them using microorganisms found in the ocean into a high-performance, biodegradable, meltable energy molecule called AirCarbon at a yield that allows them to produce at scale.
Mark Herrema continues: “Our impact is small right now relative to the problem, but our aim is to expand as fast as we can using both direct production and licensed production. One of our primary challenges has been the time it takes to engineer and build new AirCarbon production plants, but we have developed a modular solution that we think will significantly accelerate that.
“The other challenge we have faced is verifying our supply chain We realized that we needed a way to demonstrate to end-consumers purchasing AirCarbon products that their items had started out as greenhouse gas, that we had used renewable power to produce them, and that they generated a reduction in carbon that would have otherwise become part of the air. To achieve this, we started to search for a technology partner to help us add this crucial element of verifiability—and to enable us to do this at scale.”
Turning vision into reality
To support its ambitious expansion plans, Newlight Technologies reached out to IBM and IBM Business Partner Cognition Foundry, and decided to deploy an IBM Blockchain solution, powered by IBM LinuxONE.
Mark Herrema comments: “We contacted the IBM team, and they connected us with Cognition Foundry. We looked through some of their other work with social enterprises and were hugely impressed. As soon as we got in touch with Cognition Foundry, we knew we had found a partner with the ability to help us take the next steps on our journey.”
Newlight worked with Cognition Foundry to deploy an IBM Blockchain-based system that creates an indelible record of every step in the production of AirCarbon. Each stage in the process—from sourcing methane emissions generated at abandoned coal mines, landfills, or farms, to the procurement of renewable energy, to the conversion of gas into products, to the input of a third party verification report—generates a discrete data input which is recorded in the Blockchain hyperledger. Every link in the chain supports and verifies every other link, and therefore cannot be eradicated or changed.
Mark Herrema adds: “IBM Blockchain is an ideal technology for us. It enables us to give our consumers a verifiable provenance: you know exactly when and where we captured the greenhouse gas, when we converted it to a polymer and then an AirCarbon pellet, how it reached your hands, and what the overall third party verified carbon impact was. That gives consumers the ability to make an informed choice about the kind of impact they want to have.”
Cognition Foundry hosts the IBM Blockchain solution on an IBM LinuxONE server. The LinuxONE platform delivers the massive scalability and security that Newlight needs to underpin its expanding operations.
Ron Argent, CEO of Cognition Foundry, explains: “We work with dynamic startups with cutting-edge ideas, who want to make an impact on the world fast. LinuxONE is the ideal infrastructure to answer that need, as the vertical scalability is unsurpassed. We can provision an environment that is the right size for our client at the start, and scale up at the flick of a switch just as soon as they need more processor power.
“It really is that easy, and ensures there is no restriction on how far you can grow. Since there is no need to add more infrastructure to scale up, we can limit our physical footprint – unlike a traditional server farm. This helps to optimize server utilization and prevent waste, enabling us to operate in an energy-efficient and eco-friendly way, too.”
He continues: “Our clients also benefit from the exceptional reliability and robustness that comes from the 50 years of enterprise development experience that have fed into the LinuxONE platform. The level of security and availability is exceptional: as a service provider, we can host multiple client applications each with their own virtual network on the same physical server, again contributing to a greener, more cost-efficient strategy.”
With LinuxONE supporting its blockchain solution, Newlight can continue to evolve, without the risk of losing momentum, as Mark Herrema comments: “Working with Cognition Foundry and IBM has been a real one-two punch. With IBM LinuxONE, we can focus on how we bring our carbon capture process to the world, and we do not have to worry about managing our infrastructure, nor slow down and reassess every time we need to add new users to the solution. It’s a really nice pathway to scale.”
Empowering consumers to change the world
Backed by IBM and Cognition Foundry, Newlight is well-positioned to achieve its goal of helping to address climate change by turning greenhouse gas into a resource.
Mark Herrema elaborates: “Sometimes there is resignation around climate change, that the fight may be lost already. When people hear about new ideas that claim to help in this fight, they are naturally skeptical, and want quantifiable, verified information about how something can help make a difference.”
“Blockchain gives us the critical element of verifiability in the production of AirCarbon products. Our customers can see for themselves what the unique impact of their product is, which steps it went through, and who independently reviewed it. In turn, this empowers them to make more informed decisions about which products they want to buy, based on what matters to them.”
The transparency of blockchain technology and the scalability of LinuxONE are also enabling Newlight to empower its existing customers and attract new ones. The company has secured licensing agreements with leading manufacturers, which will eventually allow them to utilize the company’s bioconversion process to create their own AirCarbon goods, with blockchain technology enabling Newlight to track the impact of its licensing program globally.
Mark Herrema continues: “With our IBM infrastructure, we can deliver to our customers and partners a level of transparency that was not possible previously, resulting in better decisions and, hopefully, a greater environmental impact.”
Newlight Technologies, Inc.
Newlight was founded in 2003 with a question: if nature can do it, why can’t we use greenhouse gas as a resource? Over 10 years of research and development, Newlight developed a biotechnological process to harness microorganisms found in the ocean to convert greenhouse gas into a meltable energy material found in all living things: a naturally-occurring, biocompatible material that can be used to make fibers and solid parts, and help reduce the flow of carbon and synthetic plastic into the environment. Today, Newlight is focused on growth through both internal and licensed production to help fulfill the company's mission: to protect and improve life by accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable materials.
Take the Next Step
To learn more about IBM LinuxONE, the world’s most secure, modern Linux platform, visit ibm.com/linuxone
To learn more about IBM Blockchain, visit ibm.com/blockchain/for-good
Cognition Foundry is a UK-based services provider and systems integrator specializing in cognitive solutions and cloud platforms powered by advanced IBM and open-source technology.