Noya’s pitch a few years ago was pretty straightforward: lower the cost of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by using existing industrial cooling towers, which are pretty much everywhere. Noya would inject its special carbon capture compounds into the tower’s water supply and after the water had done its cooling work, remove the carbon dioxide on the other end.
That concept was good enough to get them into Y Combinator as part of the accelerator’s Winter 2021 cohort. The next year of work was fruitful, by all accounts. Then founders Josh Santos and Daniel Cavero pivoted.
“We were getting ready to deploy that version of our technology later on this year,” Santos, CEO of Noya, told TechCrunch+. “We switched strategies late last year.”
It wasn’t that their concept was failing, but the economics had changed drastically. The Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed into law in August 2022, boosted the incentive from $50 per metric ton to $180 per metric ton for companies that could capture 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and store it underground. That meant ditching the cooling towers, which aren’t as a rule located near suitable storage sites.
“We did some math to confirm, of course, but it was really exciting for us. And it was a pretty easy decision,” Santos said. “We made the decision in quarter four of last year to take the same direct air capture technology, that same filter, the same material, the same regeneration process, the same equipment designed, and essentially just add our own fan and deploy it right next to CO2 injection wells.”
Noya’s approach to carbon capture is modular, involving an array of units that effectively operate independently. Each unit contains an activated carbon monolith that serves as scaffolding for their sorbent, the chemical that binds carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A fan blows air through the structure and, after about an hour, saturates the sorbent.