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XPRIZE Team Lichen Discovers Revolutionary Biomimetic Microalgae Coating for Carbon Capture Removal

Updated: Jan 17

Lichen is a symbiotic composite organism where algae or bacteria grow on fungi with mutual benefits to all species involved. Algae or bacteria provide the ability to convert sunlight into organic matter through photosynthesis, producing nutrients that are used by fungi. On the other hand, fungi provide protection from the environment, anchoring the algae/bacteria, while fungi filaments also gather moisture and nutrients that are used by algae/bacteria. New carbon capture and storage technology inspired by lichen’s symbiotic system uses microalgae embedded in a coating to convert solar energy and CO2 into cellulose (Cole, 2022).

This biomimetic direct air carbon capture and storage system created by XPRIZE Team Lichen and Carbon Capture Coatings co-founders Steve & Beth McDaniel Ph.D. represents a significant step forward in carbon capture and storage technology. “Most direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) systems require a significant upfront investment, have large energy demand, and have relatively low CO2 capture rates,” explains James Scott, founder of the ENVIROTECH Pre-Accelerator. Scott continues, “This means that to make a significant impact on climate change, large-scale DACCS systems are required, but their rapid expansion and deployment are challenging. However, the algae-based coating can easily be produced by printing, the production can easily be scaled up, and the cellulose produced through CO2 conversion can be converted further into biochar. This ensures durable and stable carbon sequestration without the need for underground storage and the associated risks of accidental CO2 release.”

Additional advantages of this biomimetic microalgae coating are minimal operational and management requirements, and competitive CO2 sequestration costs, even at a relatively low scale. It is expected that these benefits would only increase at large-scale production and deployment, while the costs would significantly decrease. “Modular design provides flexibility with the ability to quickly upscale production and reduces capacities as needed,” explains Steve McDaniel, Ph.D. Additional economic benefits can be gained from the production of biochar, which is known to increase the soil fertility and agricultural yields of acidic soils.

The new biomimetic microalgae coating represents a major development in direct air carbon capture and storage. It is environmentally friendly with relatively low energy consumption. In addition, the captured CO2 is naturally converted to cellulose, which can further be converted to biochar using pyrolisis. This provides a very stable and reliable way to store captured carbon, making sure it would not find its way back into the atmosphere, negating the benefits, and wasting the energy spent to capture it in the first place. This technology addresses all of the major concerns of most direct air carbon capture and storage technologies: the ability to quickly scale up, it has low upfront costs, low energy demands, low operational and maintenance costs, and extremely high reliability of carbon storage. This makes it one of the technologies with the ability to significantly contribute to the global climate change mitigation effort.

The Embassy Row Project supported ENVIROTECH Pre-Accelerator internationalizes carbon capture and storage, environmental, and clean energy-focused technologies to a ready network of public and private sector stakeholders in more than 47+ countries worldwide.

Team Lichen and ENVIROTECH Pre-Accelerator UPDATE: After their presentation at the Democratizing Decarbonization Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in November of 2022, XPRIZE Team Lichen has been offered a pilot project to launch their much-anticipated carbon capture technology by the Bulgarian government.


Cole, G., Greene, J.M., Quinn, J., McDaniel, B., Kemp, L., Simmons, D., Hodges, T., Nobles, D., Weiss, T., McGowen, J. and McDaniel, S., 2022, Integrated Techno-Economic and Life Cycle Assessment of a Novel Algae-Based Coating for Direct Air Carbon Capture and Sequestration. Available at SSRN 4288154,

Embassy Row Project

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