Dimensional Energy, a Rev member startup that turns captured carbon dioxide into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), recently secured a major investment from United Airlines and United Airlines Ventures.
On June 15, the airline announced its promise to buy at least 300 million gallons of SAF from Dimensional Energy over the next 20 years.
To make the fuel, Dimensional Energy obtains carbon dioxide from industrial sites, direct-air capture, or biological processes like fermentation and biomass gasification, rather than extracting it from underground. The company’s reactor system then uses renewable energy and hydrogen to transform the CO2 into usable ingredients for the tried-and-true Fischer-Tropsch process, creating a low-carbon, high-performing synthetic jet fuel.
Although United invests in three other SAF-related companies, the commercial agreement with Dimensional Energy is the airline’s first investment in a company that creates SAF synthetically without feedstock or other biofuel resources.
United will also invest into Dimensional Energy’s research and development and help to scale the company, which built a facility in Tucson, Arizona last year. With the facility set to begin operation in July, Dimensional Energy estimates that its jet fuel will be ready to begin a testing phase in about a year.
Dimensional Energy started in 2016 when two engineering professors at Cornell University, David Erickson and Tobias Hanrath, applied separately for funding from NEXUS-NY, a green technology business accelerator. The program connected Erickson and Hanrath due to the similarity of their ideas, and they co-founded the company along with NEXUS-NY mentors Jason Salfi and Clayton Poppe.
The startup joined Rev: Ithaca Startup Works that year, and later joined the McGovern Center Incubator for Life Science Ventures at Cornell in 2018.
A grant from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability provided Dimensional Energy early support for the development of their environmentally-friendly fuel technology. Since then, the startup has raised millions of dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
In 2021, Dimensional Energy continued to make headlines as a finalist in the $20 million Carbon XPRIZE competition, and was the accepted into Cohort X of prestigious CleanTech incubator Elemental Excelerator (EEx). EEx has provided the startup with $300,000 in funding and access to valuable resources in the sustainable energy space.
In addition to boosting Dimensional Energy’s growth, United’s new pact with the company will help the airline work toward its pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 without requiring traditional carbon offsets.