five French nuggets to watch closely for their breakthrough technologies

Carbon invents giant solar cell factory

French giant solar cell factory. It’s a crazy bet from Lyon-based startup Carbon at a time when the European PV market is completely inundated with panels from Asia that are driving prices down. But with Europe’s energy sovereignty a critical issue, Carbon is determined to play its cards right.

Thus, by 2030, the company aims to become one of the top ten global solar panel manufacturers through the establishment of an XXL plant with an annual capacity of 15 to 20 GW, or more or less than half of the installed capacity in Europe by 2021.

In particular, the startup intends to integrate both the processing of ingots for the manufacture of plates and the production of cells, as well as the integration of photovoltaic modules in the form of panels.

The key to this ambitious industrial project: the creation of 2,000 direct jobs. It remains to convince investors … In the coming years, Carbon hopes to attract about 1.5 billion euros of investment.

Reevco captures CO2 from industrial fumes using cryogenics

Air Liquide is not the only French company to develop cryogenic CO2 capture technology. Lyon-based startup Reevco, founded in 2020 by two young engineers, has also entered this vast decarbonization market. Its patented technology allows manufacturers to extract the CO2 emitted directly from their chimneys.

More specifically, the vapors are sucked in and introduced into the capture module. In this case, the first sorting is performed to release CO2, then direct contact of liquefied nitrogen, cooled to -196 degrees, with industrial fumes causes the formation of CO2 flakes. Once captured, the CO2 is returned to a liquid form for storage.

This technology, dubbed CarbonCloud, is aimed at manufacturers whose fumes have low CO2 concentrations (between 8 and 30%) and small volumes, unlike Air Liquide, which targets fumes with very high CO2 concentrations. “Quite specifically, we are mainly focused on metallurgy, cement, steel and lime,” says Hugo Lucas, co-founder of the company with Paul Thaton.

Reevco has already installed a pilot plant capable of capturing 2 tons of CO2 per day, but it is not yet operating at full capacity. The startup recently raised 3.5 million euros from a pool of investors to fund a second capture plant with 10 times the capacity, capturing 20 tons of CO2 per day. Like the first one, it will be installed at the Eiffage lime quarry in Aven-sur-Elpe in the north and should be operational by the end of 2023.

By 2026, Reevco intends to deploy about forty units. To entice growers, young shoots ensure that this is the lowest power solution on the market. It claims a price of 30 euros per tonne of captured CO2 at a price of 8 cents per kilowatt hour and a 20 percent concentration of CO2 in flue gases.

Charwood goes public for mass production of carbon-free synthesis gas

Breton Charwood specializes in biomass, which today uses mainly for heating in heating networks and for methanation. But the company intends to accelerate on a third track: pyrogasification, which consists of cooking biomass with very little or even no oxygen. “This process makes it possible to obtain synthetic gas, which is called “synthesis gas”, which, in particular, can replace natural gas. [émetteur de CO2, ndlr] in industrial processes, explains Adrian Haller, founder and managing director of the company.

Thus, Charwood entered into the first contract with the Terreal group, which specializes in firing terracotta for the production of building materials. “Using our solution provides manufacturers with information on energy prices, which are a significant part of their production costs. supply, as opposed to natural gas”the founder emphasizes.

More broadly, Charwood targets industrialists who are very large energy consumers, such as terracotta, glass, food and woodworkers. The company has set a goal of having 30 units in operation by 2027 and 20 under development. The biomass specialist also intends to deploy in Central Africa, Latin America and the overseas departments and territories of France regions that often use fuel oil for electricity generation and that could benefit from electricity generated through pyrogasification. To accelerate its development, the Breton company recently listed on Euronext, where it raised 12.4 million euros. Charwood is already profitable.

Sakowin produces green hydrogen using methane

Water electrolysis is not the only technology to produce carbon-free hydrogen. Other processes can be used, and this is exactly what the Sakowin Green Energy startup intends to do. The launch is based on technology that splits methane into hydrogen gas and solid carbon, which can then be reused in the concrete industry or in agriculture.

“Science tells us that a methane molecule (CH 4 ) needs less energy to dissociate than a water molecule (H 2 O).”, notes the company from Aix-en-Provence. Thus, its module, dubbed “South Beach”, will consume five times less electricity than an electrolyser. It is installed directly at hydrogen consumption facilities, such as car charging stations.

The company, run by Gérard Gatt, has not yet passed the industrial stage. Its first prototype, which can produce up to 200 kg of hydrogen per day, should not see the light of day until 2025. Although still in its infancy, Sakowin has managed to enlist the support of Bpifrance and EIC Accelerator, the flagship program. launched by the European Innovation Council, which recently provided it with funding of 6.5 million euros.

Naaera dreams of “greener” micronuclear reactors

EDF is not the only Frenchman working on a small modular nuclear reactor, or SMR in jargon for Small Modular Reactor. Naaera, a very young company officially founded last November, also intends to enter this vast market. But his design differs in many ways from that of the tricolor electrician. First Naaera is working on ultra small modular reactor, which should range from 1 to 40 GW, compared to the 50 to 200 MW range for most SMRs. Thus, it is aimed at industrialists and local authorities.

Naaera then intends to rely on fourth-generation reactors capable of operating thanks to the radioactive materials already in use, obtained from the current nuclear fleet’s power generation. Goal: Significantly reduce the amount of nuclear waste. The principle on which the Astrid research project was based, although CEA abandoned it three years ago. The young shoot also intends to supply its reactors with thorium, a mine waste that is not being used.

The highly ambitious startup founded by Jean-Luc Alexandre and Ivan Gavrilov aims to bring its first micro power plant to market by 2030. As with MMP, the idea is to drastically reduce production costs through a standardized approach. and factory building. It is clear that the construction of a production line for micronuclear reactors requires a large capital investment, and the start-up should soon complete an initial fundraising of several tens of millions of euros. Other rounds of the table must follow.