COLUMN | Is formic acid the fuel of the future?

What could be better than solving social issues, such as the climate problem, with smart technology? Innovations that enable vital sectors to reduce their CO2 footprint and help make their business operations more sustainable. My company, a start-up with a lot of potential, is fully engaged in enabling companies to help with the energy transition.

Before I tell you how I got the idea, I want to tell you something about formic acid. Namely that the clean and natural product is frequently used, for example in the chemical and food sectors, by people, flora and fauna. And that it can be made with green electricity, even circular, because the CO2 emissions that are released during conversion can be used to produce new formic acid.

The first time I heard about the potential of formic acid as a clean energy carrier was for a school assignment. At the TU/e, well-performing students were given the opportunity to do an extra project in addition to their studies, during this project we discovered the potential of formic acid. Because we were thrilled with the potential, our mission to bring this to the market became determined to develop something beautiful with formic acid. Despite the skeptical attitude of fellow students and professors, inspired by nature we continued to explore how to store energy through artificial photosynthesis. At first from a small office at TU/e and later in the then empty boiler house on the Automotive Campus, once the energy supply for the entire campus.

There we developed the first car on formic acid, the Pico. That experiment showed perfectly how you can generate enough energy through some clever chemistry to run a small vehicle without using fossil fuels. After developing a city bus on formic acid, the real work began, with an order from BAM in 2018 where the construction project on the N211 was supplied with power from a formic acid generator.

Supported by these projects, we made our dream come true and we started our company. It is now a fast-growing company with thirteen employees and a lot of potential. We want to accelerate the energy transition and focus mainly on construction and infrastructure, because this is the sector that will benefit the most from our generators. The technology is easy to scale up, so that builders can generate enough sustainable energy for large construction equipment. The generators can be modularly linked to each other, so that the power can be increased as required. It can be used to drive electrical construction tools or machines. There has been a lot of interest in our innovation from the construction industry. We hope we have developed  a great solution for the construction sector that is working hard to become cleaner, smarter and circular. And now we also hope that clients of construction and infrastructure projects will see the benefit of our sustainable product, with which builders can realize their ambition to become clean, CO2 neutral and circular.

Max Aerts, CEO of DENS

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