In this episode of Hardware to Save a Planet, Dylan is joined by Dr. Laura Lammers, Founder and CEO of Travertine. They discuss a novel process for generating carbon-negative sulfuric acid that uses sulfate waste from the industry as an input.

Dr. Laura Lammers did her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and has spent many years doing fundamental research to understand the Earth’s natural processes that regulate carbon cycling. In January of this year, she shifted from academia to start Travertine to turn her research into a scalable impact on climate change.

If you want to discover more about how Travertine’s technology re-engineers chemical production for Carbon Dioxide Removal, check the key takeaways of this episode or the transcript below.

Key highlights

  • 5:40 – 7:41 – Travertine’s Mission – Travertine works to solve two big problems. One is sulfuric acid production, the world’s most used inorganic chemical, which is produced by burning a byproduct of fossil energy manufacturing. The sulfuric acid that we use then generates massive sulfate wastes that are environmentally hazardous in many contexts. So Travertine works on eliminating that waste stream and upcycling sulfuric acid. At the same time, Travertine eliminates carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in carbonate minerals. This happens through water electrolysis, which allows you to produce equal quantities of acid and base.
  • 7:41 – 8:44 – Sulfuric Acid Issues – Sulfuric acid production is not harmful to the environment. The issue stands in the feedstock for sulfuric acid production, the elemental sulfur, a waste product of fossil energy manufacturing. Secondly, conventional sulfuric acid generates new acidity and sulfate and is either deposited into piles of solids like calcium sulfate salts or diluted into surface waters. So there are environmental impacts of discharging this much sulfate into the surface environment. It makes more sense, if it’s possible and efficient, to take that sulfate and turn it back into sulfuric acid.
  • 11:21 – 12:05 – Carbon Sequestration – Most carbon dioxide removal technologies focus on separating CO2 and storing it underground. But Travertine tries to beneficially use all the products of carbon dioxide removal rather than simply storing the CO2 underground.
  • 12:05 – 15:57 – The Business Model – From a business perspective, Travertine’s main customers are users of sulfuric acid, like fertilizer companies who produce phosphogypsum stacks, and could also purchase other co-products like green hydrogen for their ammonia production processes. Another important customer could be mining companies that require sulfuric acid for processes like hydrometallurgical extractions.


Dylan Garrett: Welcome to Hardware to Save a Planet. I’m excited to be talking today with Dr. Laura Lammers, founder and CEO of Travertine, about a novel process for generating carbon negative sulfuric acid that uses sulfate waste from industry as an input. This is exciting because it tackles a couple of big climate challenges. One, carbon dioxide removal, which as we’ve talked about on the show before needs to be happening at gigaton scales in order to meet our climate goals.

The other is that sulfuric acid is the world’s most produced chemical and it’s critical to supporting the industries that are making our transition to renewable energy possible. It’s used for lithium extraction, for example, which is skyrocketing with battery manufacturing. If we could produce sulfuric acid in a sustainable way while simultaneously storing CO2, it would be a major double win for the planet.

To introduce Laura quickly, she did her PhD at UC, Berkeley and has spent many years doing fundamental research to understand the earth’s natural processes that regulate carbon cycling. She was studying carbon mineralization way before it was cool. In January this year, she made the jump from academia to start Travertine with the goal of turning her research into a scalable impact on climate change. Welcome, Laura. I’m really excited to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Laura Lammers: Thanks, Dylan. I’m really excited to be here and I just want to say that carbonate mineralization has actually always been cool. I was just the one who realized it sooner.

Dylan: You discovered the coolness. Well understood. Good point. Cool. I’m excited to talk about it because I also find it to be very cool. Before we get into Travertine, I’d actually love to just learn more about your background. You’re on this ambitious mission. What events in your life led you down this path?

Laura: I think it’s just been a series of events that have all led in the same direction. When I was a kid, I was always interested in the national environment and learned about environmental challenges. I grew up in Houston, Texas and so I was steeped in this fossil energy culture where my parents were big environmentalists and so, was always thinking about environmental problem-solving. I decided to go to Dartmouth College for my bachelor’s because they had a really, really good earth science program and so got into environmental chemistry at Dartmouth and started working in a lab pretty early on.

At that point, I was looking at arsenic in soils and acid remediation, but interested again in how we can affect change in the environment with engineering solutions. Then in my PhD, I went to work with Don DePaolo at UC, Berkeley and it just so happened that at that time he was leading or just started to leave a center, one of the first centers on geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, that subsurface, and understanding what’s going to happen with the CO2 that we put underground. That got me into the field of carbonate mineralization. I did my dissertation in fundamental chemistry of carbonate formation and really have ever since been working on carbonate mineralization.

What controls the rates of formation, what controls in the deep oceans formation and re-crystallization of these things and so that’s what got me into carbonate in particular in the carbon cycle. After PhD I went to a brief postdoc and was just feeling this gap between academia and application so I went briefly into environmental consulting but then decided to come back to academia when I got a position at UC, Berkeley. In my lab at Cal and continuing this research stream and carbonate mineralization, but also getting into a little bit more applied, selected element extraction, and so this is what all of these streams of research coalescent to what now is Travertine.

Dylan: Awesome. I think you’re one of only two CEOs I’ve talked with who’s made that switch from academia to running a company and everything that comes along with that. What’s something you learned about the differences that you didn’t expect?

Laura: I think maybe one of the things that was unexpected is, at least at this scale, how similar it is to running a research group in a sense because when you’re a PI of a lab group I spend really probably the majority of my time fundraising. I was always writing grants, interacting with grant organizations, administering projects. There’s a lot of that administration of business aspect of academia that people don’t really think about. All you think about is doing the science and so there’s a lot more of that running a small business to academia maybe than people appreciate, but layered on top of that of course is teaching and lots of service.

Coming out of academia and starting this company has been really a breath of fresh air because really I get to focus in-depth on one thing that I think is really important and I’m excited and passionate about and I’m not distracted by a lot of other things that I also think are important, but prevent me from making a lot of progress in one specific goal. I think maybe the most surprising thing is how similar it is, at least at this stage. I think that’ll change as we grow but right now it’s really just been extremely fun.

Dylan: Cool. I did not expect that answer, but that makes a lot of sense. Could you start by just giving us a high-level description of what it is Travertine is doing?

Laura: Travertine is working to solve two big problems. The first is sulfuric acid production. Sulfuric acid as you said in the introduction is the world’s most used inorganic chemical and the way that we produce it now is by basically burning a byproduct of fossil energy manufacturing. The way that we produce sulfuric acid and the way we use it is not clean in the sense that the sulfuric acid that we use then generates massive sulfate wastes that are environmentally hazardous in many contexts.

What we’re trying to do is eliminate that waste stream and upcycle sulfuric acid and then at the same time we need to do carbon dioxide removal. Travertine’s process has basically come up with a way to efficiently upcycle sulfuric acid while sequestering carbon dioxide permanently from the atmosphere in carbonate minerals and we can do these things together through water electrolysis which allows you to produce equal quantities of acid and base.

We can take a sulfate waste feed like, for example, a phosphogypsum which is a waste product of fertilizer manufacturing. We take the sulfate waste feed, we put that into our precipitation reactor where we react with carbon dioxide from the air and base it out of a water electrolyzer to produce carbonate minerals. That’s where the CO2 goes to permanent sequestration in a carbonate mineral, like the way that the earth sequesters CO2.

At the same time, we’re taking the sulfate, we’re liberating that from the waste stream and then we’re turning that back into sulfuric acid. We can take waste feed and turn it into something good, which is a permanent carbon sequestration, maybe even something we could use as a green cement product down the road while at the same time upcycling that sulfuric acid making those linear resource extraction techniques that we’re really good at doing as humans into more cyclic ones that hopefully we’re shifting towards now in this century.

Dylan: To understand the problem a little bit more, is sulfuric acid production itself harmful to the environment or is it more about the waste produced and using it?

Laura: I wouldn’t say that sulfuric acid production itself is harmful to the environment. It’s a highly industrialized process, we’re doing it all over the globe. This is not problematic in itself. I think the issue is that one, the feedstock for sulfuric acid production, elemental sulfur, is a waste product of fossil energy manufacturing. You’re subsidizing fossil energy production by purchasing sulfur. Then the second thing, and probably more important thing is that in conventional acid you’re just generating new acidity and then generating new sulfate.

This sulfate has to go somewhere. Either it goes into a big pile of solids like calcium sulfate salts or it’s getting diluted into surface waters and so there are environmental impacts of discharging this much sulfate into the surface environment. It makes more sense in some ways if it’s possible and efficient to take that sulfate and turn it back into sulfuric acid.

Dylan: When we talked before this you’d show me a picture of a mountain of sulfate waste which is pretty impactful to see just how much of this stuff is sitting around not being used and it sounds like maybe leaching into the water and causing issues there and stuff.

Laura: It’s truly staggering the scale of these waste products. The most sulphuric acid in the world right now is used to produce phosphorus fertilizers which are absolutely critical for feeding the world. We can’t get around producing phosphorus fertilizers for a lot of difficult chemical reasons that I don’t want to get into now but when you produce phosphorus fertilizers you’re taking this geologic feed stock called rock phosphorus and reacting it with this sulfuric acid and it generates phosphogypsum.

Every year we produce hundreds of millions of tons of phosphogypsum. You can imagine that multiplied by 70 years of making phospho fertilizer in this way there are many billions of tons of this stuff piled up all over the globe. You can see it from space. The issue is that this PG is slightly radioactive and so you can’t really beneficial reuse it and so we’re really running out of space to store it and at least in the United States it’s almost impossible to permit a new phosphorous production plant because the EPA won’t allow production of more phosphogypsum.

Dylan: I’m wondering what that means for our ability to continue– if we don’t find a way to use this waste to continue producing fertilizer or extracting these elements and that kind of thing if–

Laura: I don’t think the US really has a long-term plan other than to buy it from somewhere else where they’re less restrictive in their environmental regulations, which I don’t think is a good long-term solution. I’m all for let’s manufacture these chemicals here in the most clean way possible.

Dylan: Let’s just for a second remove the, or take the carbon dioxide removal part of your solution off the table. It sounds like even without that, there’s a big benefit here in that you’re finding use for this waste to produce more sulfuric acid. Is that the right way to think about it?

Laura: Yes, I think one of the more surprising things, coming out of the lab bench and talking to potential customers for our process is that they’re most interested in the sulfate waste abatement side of things rather than the carbon dioxide removal side of things because waste management is very expensive for companies. That’s actually been a bigger selling point to our commercial customers who would buy sulfuric acid, for example, than the carbon sequestration side.

Dylan: On the carbon sequestration side, how should we look at it in comparison with other CDR technologies?

Laura: Great question. Compared to other carbon dioxide removal technologies writ large, most technologies are focused on separating CO2, generating a compressed carbon dioxide stream. The difference for us is that we’re generating chemical products at, So on earth’s surface that could then be used for other applications.

I think our main differentiator is that we’re trying to beneficially use all the products of carbon dioxide removal rather than simply just storing the CO2 underground.

It’s staggering the scale of these waste products. The most sulfuric acid in the world is used to produce phosphorus fertilizers, which are critical for feeding the world. But when you produce phosphorus fertilizers, you’re taking this geologic feedstock called rock phosphorus, reacting it with this sulfuric acid, and it generates phosphogypsum, which we produce in millions of tons every year. And you can imagine that multiplied by seventy years, we will see it from space. And the issue is that this phosphogypsum is slightly radioactive, and you can’t beneficially reuse it.

— Dr. Laura Lammers

Dylan: Let’s talk about the business a little bit. You mentioned your customers a second ago, so what exactly will you be selling to them and can you describe who those customers are?

Laura: I would say at this point we have a couple of different flavors of customers. The main customers early on are going to be today’s biggest users of sulfuric acid. Fertilizer companies, for example, who are producing the phosphogypsum stacks would be a great customer because not only can they supply the phosphogypsum waste, which is a feedstock for our process, but they can purchase the sulfuric acid that we produce as well as our other co-products.

Another co-product of our process, I hadn’t mentioned this before, is green hydrogen because we’re making acid and base electrolytically, meaning we’re splitting water, which means we produce hydrogen in that process and we’re doing it in an electrical way, so it’s green hydrogen. They can take our severe acid, they could conceivably take our hydrogen for their ammonia production processes and they can basically use our carbonate products.

I think all of these things together make that a very appealing direction from a business perspective. Another important customer is the mining industry. There are many, many different mining processes that require the use of sulfuric acid. These include hydrometallurgical extractions where you have a dilute sulfuric acid leach. This would be typical of a lithium extraction from a clay stone or some unconventional deposit.

Mining companies are also potentially great customers in the sense that they can use our sulfuric acid products and many of them have top-down corporate mandates to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions in their production processes. That’s another win for them. Another issue is that in a given project that’s being planned for a mine, all of those undergo environmental review and in some cases, waste generation is the difference between a mine getting permitted and not.

If they can come to a permitting agency with a process that eliminates this massive waste stream, most of these mines are going to be producing thousands of tons of sulfate waste day, which again, it’s not that environmentally hazardous necessarily, but it is a huge waste stream where if you have a water-limited ecosystem, it might be hard to get rid of that. It might mean the difference between a mine effectively getting permitted and not.

Dylan: You mentioned the corporate environmental mandates is what’s behind that. Is that being driven by regulation or pressure from other parts of the supply chain or something like that?

Laura: I sure wish it were being driven by regulation, but at this point it seems that it’s actually on some level voluntary and really a choice that I think is driven by pressure from customers, wanting companies to be producing their critical elements in an environmentally sustainable way. I think a lot of these mandates are really top-downs coming from the CEO saying, we need to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. That means that these companies are starting to price carbon internally, which is really useful when they’re evaluating potential technologies they can use in their mining processes.

Dylan: When they look at it holistically, it sounds like maybe there is a financial incentive to do it this way, is that right?

Laura: I think there are a lot of incentives in terms of waste abatement and internal pricing of carbon credits. Also, there are other government programs now through the Inflation Reduction Act that have real prices on carbon where we could sell those credits separately from selling these products to the customer. For us from a business perspective, we’re trying to understand whether it makes sense to be retiring these credits internally to the process or selling them separately on an open market. That’s something that we’re thinking through now.

Dylan: I was going to ask about the Inflation Reduction Act. Can you say a little bit more about how that’s impacting things for you?

Laura: I think in a number of very positive ways. There are direct tax credits that we could benefit from. There’s a credit for carbon dioxide removal and sequestration, that’s that 45Q credit. Then there are also green hydrogen credits, which can’t be used together with the carbon sequestration credits, but there may be cases in which we’re doing more abatement than sequestration and then could take advantage of that green hydrogen credit instead. That’s wonderful.

Then there’s also the tax credits going to producers of critical elements that are really encouraging domestic production critical elements like nickel, lithium, cobalt, platinum group metals, all these different materials that are going to be essential for renewable energy, hard tech. This is good for us in the sense that these companies are going to be “onshoring” coming back to the US, meaning they’re subject to the stringent environmental regulations of the United States. They have more pressure to manage waste more responsibly than they would in a lot of places internationally where mining is done.

Dylan: You told me when we first met that you see a path to gigaton-scale carbon dioxide removal, what’s required to get there? What does that look like?

Laura: I think this is true.

Dylan: That’s a lot. 

Laura: I think this is true for all of these carbon dioxide removal companies, but just incredibly massive infrastructure. Just big chemical plants. You’ve seen the pictures probably of these air contactors that are being built or designing the future. These are tens of thousands of tons per year, not millions of tons per year. These are just going to be really, really big projects. It’s a lot of really big plants. I think that’s what the future of carbon dioxide removal looks like. Honestly, there are a lot of big chemical plants, honestly. That might not be what people envision when they’re thinking about a clean green future, but I think that’s the reality of it.

Dylan: In your case, those would be located onsite with these big mining operations or fertilizer production operations, is that right?

Laura: Yes, for us it would be co-locating with sites where there’s already industrial impacts, fertilizer producers, and so the footprint wouldn’t necessarily be much bigger than what they’ve already got going, but in the context of mining, we’d be co-locating they’re actually processing the materials, not necessarily where they’re mining in a lot of cases, where they actually extract the ore is not where the processing is taking place.

Dylan: In terms of scale, you mentioned I think hundreds of millions of tons of the sulfate waste a year we’re producing. Is that sufficient to get to gigaton CDR removal or CDR?

Laura: Good question. Right now, let’s think of this in terms of global sulfuric acid demand now and projected for 2040. Right now it’s about 250 million tons per year. By our process, we sequester about half a ton of carbon dioxide per ton of sulfuric acid produced. Today, if we replace all conventional sulfuric acid production, the wave of a wand, then we could sequester per year around less than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide.

By 2040, the projection is we’ll be using more 400 million tons of sulfuric acid a year, and that’s getting into peak sulfur territory where it might be short on sulfur. In that case, we’d be sequestering something like 200 million tons per year of carbon dioxide. To get to gigaton to scale carbon dioxide removal by our process, we have a couple of different options. The first is enhanced weathering of mine tailings, where we basically take waste materials from mining and be constantly producing and recycling sulfuric acid.

If we process all of what we think of as being suitable waste materials from mines, meaning ultramafic rocks. Then there’s a pathway to giga 10 scale carbon dioxide removal. We’re going to be producing enough of that material, but it means really we’re producing a lot more sulfuric acid than is used globally today. We’re just using it right away, if that makes sense. It’s not going anywhere. It’s just being used and recycled right away.

Another option that we have actually is to cycle our process. All our carbon engineering or air room, for example, where we produce the carbonate and then we convert it back into a pure CO2 stream. That’s another option to get to very large-scale carbon dioxide removal, but that starts to look a lot more like “conventional” direct air capture and sequestration, where we’re basically not producing a useful sulfuric acid product. We’re not producing a useful carbonate product, we’re simply reacting our acid and carbonate again to get pure CO2, and so that’s another way to get to much larger scale carbon dioxide removal with our process.

Dylan: Interesting, so you’d be extracting the CO2 again from the carbonate minerals?

Laura: Exactly. What it does is essentially concentrates the CO2 so that you can actually pressurize it to supercritical and then inject it underground.

What’s new about our approach to this process is essentially the way that we are marrying the water electrolysis process with the precipitation process.

— Dr. Laura Lammers

Dylan: Just thinking about the technology, where are the biggest innovations in what you’re doing? What hasn’t been done before?

Laura: What’s new about our approach to this process is essentially the way that we are marrying this water electrolysis process with precipitation process, so historically people have upcycled sulfate waste by processes like bipolar membrane electrodialysis, which is a salt-splitting process, which takes a sodium sulfate feed or some other sulfate feed and then spits it out into acid and base.

You need a complicated ED system to do that. What we’re doing couples the water electrolyzer with the precipitation reactor in this continuous flow configuration so that we basically consume all of the base that we produce at the same rate that we make it, which means that we can maintain very gentle chemical conditions in the electrolyzer, and that means that we can use off the shelf readily available materials for our water electrolyzer.

At this point, our process combines this water electrolyzer and a precipitation reactor, and of course, there’s other stuff in there, but that’s just high-level, the two main subunit operations. The water electrolyzer, it’s a unique combination of an acid electrolyzer and an alkaline electrolyzer. These have separately been industrialized but not really together in the way that we’re using it, and so because of this, we can actually use the electrodes that have been developed and commercialized for those different electrolysis processes. One thing longer term that we would like to see is improvements to the membranes, and so because again, we’re using these gentle conditions in the cathode side of the electrolyzer, we’re able to maintain our membranes for long periods of time, but we’d love to see more ion-selective membranes being developed.

We’d love to see membranes that are more tolerant to high base concentrations so that we can get a little bit more creative about the chemistry of the system, but right now there’s plenty of industrial components that we can use in our process available to us already. There’s certainly room for improvement down the road though.

Dylan: Is that the thing you would tackle at Travertine, developing those new membranes or something you’re hoping comes from other parts of the industry?

Laura: I don’t know if I see us necessarily as membrane production and R&D. I think we would definitely enter into partnerships with membrane producers and suppliers because there are ways in which membrane chemistry can be adjusted to be more relevant to a specific process, and so we would look to partner with membrane producers to co-develop materials that would be most adept at the chemistry that we’re trying to accomplish in our process.

Dylan: What are some of the big hardware challenges you expect as you scale up or maybe that you’ve already had to tackle?

Laura: I think scaling the electrolyzer and maintaining efficiencies and maintaining operations and complicated feed solutions is going to be the biggest hardware challenge that we face. Conventionally, people try to avoid completely introducing divalent ions like magnesium and calcium into your electrolyzer because they can form scales, which can deposit on a cathode and on the membrane and then you end up with high voltages and low energy efficiencies.

Part of our learnings and our trade secrets, if you will, is around maintaining low energy intensities, so high energy efficiencies of acid production in the presence of these dissolved salts, and it’s really just a matter of managing the formation of scales in the electrolyzer. As far as hardware where we’re innovating, it’s operating conditions of the electrolyzer, but also component selection, and we have the advantage, again, of being able to select from components that are already used widely in industrialized alkaline and acid electrolysis, but it’s basically making a novel combination of these materials to develop our electrolyzer.

Dylan: As you put the whole thing together, is the total energy budget something to be concerned about? I know that’s a big conversation in CDR.

Laura: Energy budget is everything. Energy is everything because for any given carbon monoxide removal process or any chemical production process is what’s the cost, and for us, water electrolysis is by far the driver of operational cost because water electrolysis takes a lot of electricity. What we need to make sure is that we can produce our acid and base with very high, what’s called efficiency, just very high efficiency so that all the energy you put into the electrolyzer is actually going to make acid and base rather than having fossils, which is just an inefficiency in your system making heat very expensively pretty much.

Energy is everything, and this is also another important part of strategizing around first citing our first commercial operations is we need renewable electricity and we want to be sourcing it from places with excess renewable electricity. We do not want to be taken from a grid where if we weren’t using the electricity, then it’s a coal power plant making up the balance of the grid.

This narrows down geographically locations that we can operate, and there are certain sites where there might be a potential energy resource that is otherwise untapped that we can tap into that currently can’t be exported to the grid. That looks really great because then we can do carbon dioxide removal and sequestration using an energy resource that otherwise wouldn’t be used.

Dylan: What’s an example of that?

Laura: If you locally have, for example, a geothermal resource that can’t be exported to the grid, then you could use that energy to produce electricity for some extractive process where it couldn’t be exported otherwise. Which is why, for example, all this DAK is happening in Iceland. It’s all this geothermal electricity that’s way in excess of the needs of the Icelandic people.

Dylan: What about using your hydrogen?

Laura: Absolutely, so we will definitely use our hydrogen, but we can’t get back to all of the energy we need from the hydrogen. It’s a fraction of the energy we need, but that could help us operationally in places if we don’t have consistent energy supply, if we’re using solar electricity, for example, then we could store our hydrogen for use at night. Then hydrogen also could be, depending on siding and whether or not we can actually export it to a market efficiently, we could compress it and sell it, and a lot of times that makes more sense economically than actually using it where we’re producing it.

Dylan: What do you think Travertine looks like at steady state, let’s say, whenever that is, 10, 20 years out?

Laura: Ooh. I think it looks like we’re operating a lot of large commercial plants in tandem with critical element extraction operations, but also in tandem with fertilizer production operations, and hopefully, these plants will last a long time, and that’s the goal. We’ll hopefully be in a steady state of commissioning new plants and then developing new projects for different applications, and that’s what it looks like to me, but a lot of big industrial facilities, which is something that I never imagined being a part of as an academic, certainly.

Dylan: What other problems might you tackle that are either on your roadmap or you would put on your roadmap if you had more time and resources?

Laura: I’ve always been interested in closing the loop on nutrient sustainability. One thing that I would love to integrate more in the longer term is more sustainable production of fertilizers, so not just carbon negative, but how can we use nutrients that we recover from wastewater? One of my PhD students, Luis is working on struvite which is a mineral that you can grow out of wastewater that pulls out all the phosphorus and it also pulls out ammonium, and so how do we recover struvite in a way that makes it possible to close the loop to the extent possible on phosphorus budgets? Because phosphorus is really tricky.

I don’t want to go into it too much now, but we want to recover as much as we possibly can from waste streams and reuse it, rather than simply extracting it from raw earth materials, and so getting more into sustainable nutrient recovery and just expanding this sustainable chemistry focus of our company.

Dylan: A few closing questions, I like to ask everybody these, what is your perspective on the future of our planet? How optimistic or pessimistic are you and why?

Laura: I mentioned this to you, but maybe folks listening wouldn’t know this is I am a mother of three young boys and you can’t be a parent of three children and not be to some extent an optimist. I believe that we are capable of solving this challenge if we essentially value the environment appropriately. We put penalties, I don’t know if we want to say penalized things, but we accurately account for the cost of environmental degradation which is what we’re starting to do by pricing carbon emissions and carbon contamination in the atmosphere. Personally, I’m an optimist because I believe that the technology that we need to get out of this climate crisis are things that we already have on deck.

There’s going to be improvements obviously, and improvements in efficiency, but we can solve this now if we price carbon emissions appropriately. From that perspective, I’m an optimist. We already move earth materials at a scale that’s relevant to carbon sequestration at the scale that we need to do it. I really do believe that we can solve this. I think this is a message that’s important for students to hear also, because I feel like recently, the last couple of years people have been feeling a little bit helpless. I truly believe that we can solve this. We just need to be doing it at this point, all hands on deck.

Dylan: I love hearing that, especially as a soon to be father of three myself. Thanks for saying that. Who’s one other person or company doing something to address climate change right now that’s inspiring you?

Laura: Oh, man. There are so many amazing examples, but I think, I want to say I’m most inspired by my recent PhD student graduates who have gone into different climate tech companies. One of them, Elliot Chan, went to found Eion, which is another Stripe portfolio company, which is trying to enhance weathering in agricultural soils. Then my other student, Jennifer Mills, who went to work at Heirloom. Truly, I was inspired by my students and inspired by them to take the leap out of academia and back in the industry because they showed me that it was possible to and that our skills that we’ve been developing so laboriously over so many years are useful to help solve this problem right now.

Dylan: What advice do you have for someone not working in climate tech today who wants to do something to help?

Laura: I think I heard this on the radio somewhere, but it really resonated with me. I would say in the Venn diagram of what you love to do and what you think the world needs right now, try to find that overlap to the extent possible and use your skills in a way that you think is beneficial to the earth. Climate crisis is one of the problems that we’re facing. There are so many other things. Just finding your sweet spot, what you feel like you’re good at and what you love to do, definitely has an outlet in something the world needs. It’s just a matter of finding that overlap. I think it’s worth investing some time in. Do a little soul searching.

Dylan: I love it. Laura, thank you very much. It’s been really fun to talk with you. I’ve learned a lot and definitely have some brushing up to do on my chemistry, but I really appreciate it. It’s been really fun and I’m inspired by what you’re doing.

Laura: Thanks, Dylan. I really appreciate you putting the show on and trying to educate folks and just the opportunity to be here. It’s a big honor. Thanks a lot.

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