Adsorbi purifies air with climate-smart supermaterial - Chalmers Ventures
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Adsorbi purifies air with climate-smart supermaterial

Air pollution leads to serious health problems worldwide and also damages sensitive objects. Adsorbi aims to address this issue. The key is an advanced supermaterial made of cellulose, which easily captures air pollutants, is environmentally friendly, and five times more effective than current methods.

The team behind the startup Adsorbi is taking on no small challenge. Global air pollution is a significant and growing problem, and finding good, eco-friendly air purification techniques has been difficult—until now.

”Air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, is truly a serious health problem: research shows that people’s average lifespan decreases by over two years due to air pollution. But today’s methods for obtaining clean air require enormous amounts of materials and energy, and are also not particularly effective,” says Hanna Johansson, CEO of Adsorbi.

Together with researchers Romain Bordes and Kinga Grenda, she discusses the company’s vision to combat harmful pollutants—and the discovery in the chemistry lab at Chalmers University that set everything in motion. Because it was indeed a research collaboration, where a new material based on cellulose was developed, that sparked the startup’s journey.

”When we realized that this material had fantastic air purification properties, much better than those available on the market today, we felt it was too good to pass up,” says Kinga Grenda.

”Yes, it became clear to us that this needed to reach beyond the university, as we saw that there was an opportunity to make a real difference,” says Romain Bordes.

Fossil-free cellulose instead of coal

The researchers contacted Chalmers Ventures, thus entering an entrepreneurial network with advisors and business developers. In 2022, a few years after the research discovery, Adsorbi was founded and became one of Chalmers Ventures’ portfolio companies, with tech enthusiast and entrepreneur Hanna Johansson at the helm as CEO.

One year after its inception, the company has already attracted significant attention in the industry and is collaborating with several industrial partners on product development projects. The team sees the fact that the company’s cellulose-based material is bio-based and has the potential to replace the air purification industry standard—activated carbon—as the primary reason for interest.

”It’s common to use fossil coal in air filters. The bio-based alternatives are made from coconut shells, in a process that is energy-intensive and entails significant emissions. So, with our material, there is really an opportunity to reduce the overall emissions in this industry,” says Hanna Johansson.

”The fact that it is at least five times more efficient than other alternatives today also means that the carbon footprint decreases significantly. That’s why we call it a supermaterial!” says Romain Bordes.

Can be tailored—and show its lifespan

But the material also has other ”super properties,” the team points out. It can be customized depending on how it will be used and which pollutants need to be removed. Additionally, it changes color when it captures pollutants.

”The fact that the filter changes color and thus shows how saturated it is means that it’s possible to see how long its lifespan is. Efficient and smart, because today, many filters are changed regularly, whether needed or not,” says Kinga Grenda.

Goal: Make a difference in a larger market

In 2023, the company will launch its first products. The potential markets and customers are many—from hospitals to the automotive or process industries, all can benefit from more climate-smart and efficient air purification. However, in the initial stages, Adsorbi chooses to focus on some smaller markets before scaling up.

One product will be launched in collaboration with a company manufacturing odor removal products. Adsorbi’s other focus is on the art market, as a significant challenge in the art industry is that air pollutants degrade and destroy artworks.

”There is a great need for air purification for art preservation, and new products in the field are not often released,” says Hanna Johansson.

She describes the strategy of building the company towards some smaller markets first as a springboard to grow within larger markets.

”Within two years, we see significant opportunities to focus on industrial air purification and the really big air purification companies. We have high ambitions and know that scaling up is a challenge, but we will bring in the right expertise and skills to tackle that challenge. Because it is in the really big markets that there is a real opportunity to make a difference,” she says.

Text: Ulrika Ernström

* Source: Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), at the Energy Policy Institute, University of Chicago.

Facts about Adsorbi

Adsorbi is based on research from Chalmers University, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

The Adsorbi Team

  • Hanna Johansson, CEO and co-founder
  • Kinga Grenda, CTO and co-founder
  • Romain Bordes, co-founder
  • Christian Löfvendahl, co-founder


Adsorbi on…

…important lessons

”It’s essential to have the right team with the right knowledge, where everyone can collaborate. If the team fails, the company fails,” says Kinga Grenda.

”It may sound like a cliché, but you really need to talk to the customers the company is targeting and understand their challenges. Having a sustainable solution is not enough; the product must concretely solve the problems the industry faces,” says Hanna Johansson.

”It’s important to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. And be prepared for that vision to be wrong—and that you may need to rethink it. Failure doesn’t mean an end, but that new doors need to be opened,” says Romain Bordes.

…support from Chalmers Ventures

”Commercializing deep tech is a significant challenge. Chalmers Ventures can, and understands, that challenge. We have received very good support and have learned to dare to invest, even if there is no definite answer to how it will go.”