Fellows Project Mars Materials

Mars Materials is commercializing a technique that transforms captured CO2 emissions into a compound used to produce low-cost, low-carbon materials for industrial use.


Removing carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere is essential to achieving net-zero global emissions by 2050. Beyond permanent storage, sequestering captured CO2 in everyday materials and products is a promising solution to reducing the concentration of atmospheric carbon and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mars Materials is using a technique called nitrilation to transform captured CO2 into acrylonitrile (ACN), an organic chemical compound that is the main building block in carbon fiber, a material used in hundreds of everyday products from textiles to electronics. Mars Materials’ chemistry relies on a heat-absorbing reaction, enabling the use of renewable energy and allowing for smaller production plants. In addition, while conventional methods for producing ACN result in toxic byproducts, the only byproducts associated with Mars Materials’ nitrilation process are water and non-toxic alcohols.

Compared to existing approaches, nitrilation plants are less than half as expensive to build and have one-third less process emissions. At scale, Mars Materials’ solution will enable the widespread use of carbon fiber in new industrial markets like the vehicle sector. Ultimately, the potential use cases associated with nitrilation’s ACN are estimated to have a cumulative greenhouse gas emissions reduction impact at the gigaton scale.