Newsletter features Dr. Anna Douglas, Co-Founder & CEO, SkyNano

SkyNano’s product is highly valuable and is economically feasible out of the gate without the need for a carbon tax or reduced electricity pricing, which is a common requirement we see in other CO2 storage and utilization technologies. We see this as an important distinction, because our pathway to scaling is based on a free market response, rather than policy changes.” 

This issue features Dr. Anna Douglas, Co-Founder & CEO, SkyNano.

Dr. Douglas is the Co-Founder of SkyNano LLC, a clean energy start-up which focuses on the scalable production of high-value functional materials using greenhouse gasses as chemical inputs. She earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Materials Science from Vanderbilt University, but has also spent time with Innovation Crossroads, the National Science Foundation, and NASA Glenn Research Center. In her spare time, she serves on the board of the American Museum of Science and Energy (a Smithsonian affiliate), and volunteers with her local chapter of the Junior League at a women’s shelter.

The idea for SkyNano came from your dissertation thesis, correct? If so, how did you get the idea for your thesis?

That’s correct! I started my graduate work studying advanced battery chemistries and looking at how nanomaterials can improve our existing battery technologies. 

One challenge I constantly found was that the way we synthesize and mine the materials that go into batteries is often a very energy intensive or emissions-heavy process, which puts an enormous upfront carbon burden on battery devices. That means that in order to actually realize the clean energy benefits of batteries, the batteries need to last a very long time in order to offset that initial burden.

To overcome this challenge, we started investigating other ways to make the materials that go into batteries. Carbon is used in our lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries today and is a critical component of nearly every next-generation battery chemistry being investigated today, e.g. lithium-sulfur (Li-S), silicon anode (Si-anode), etc., so we started there.

We found this chemistry that had been studied since the early 1900s to electrochemically convert CO2 into solid carbon and gaseous oxygen, and we realized if we could help drive the formation of specific valuable carbon structures (rather than the mixed carbon morphologies that had previously been observed), then we could really bring this technology to market.

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