Turning air into foam to give life to the sole of your running shoe? This is the achievement that the Swiss “ON” has managed to achieve. This Cloudprime sneaker is made from a new type of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate). This is a foaming substance called CleanCloud. This uses carbon emissions present in the atmosphere as raw materials. In short, these sneakers are never short of air.
Instead of considering carbon emissions from human activities as useless waste, we decided to consider them as resources. To realize this powerful role that represents the CleanCloud approach, the Swiss manufacturer of sports products has teamed up with three innovative companies that are advancing in biochemistry, processes and materials. “Holding the first-ever carbon-emissions shoe in my hand is a milestone – not just for On, but for the entire sports industry.”Caspar Copiti, co-founder and co-CEO of On explains.
A process that uses carbon dioxide as a raw material
It took at least four years to bring the CleanCloud project to life. Step one: carbon capture and conversion. For this purpose, LanzaTech has developed technology to capture carbon emitted from factories to convert it into patented ethanol, CarbonSmart. Concretely, LanzaTech recovers the carbon dioxide produced by the steel mills prior to conducting the gaseous fermentation process.
For this, carbon dioxide is collected by an electrolysis process, purified and finally converted into ethanol by fermentation using… rabbit gut bacteria. These bacteria kind of “digest” carbon dioxide, like the fermentation method in making beer.
2 tons of carbon emissions to produce 1 ton of ethanol CarbonSmart
Manufacturing one ton of CarbonSmart ethanol requires the use of 2 tons of CO2. This means less carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Since 2021, the company has removed about 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and aims to manufacture about 500 million tons of Smart Carbon Ethanol by 2023.
“Recycled carbon is a resource, not a liability. As we turn more and more pollution into products we use in our daily lives, we will reduce the need to extract more carbon from the earth”says Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech.
Carbon emissions that turn into foam
Then Technip Energies gets to work. This takes care of the process of drying the ethanol and converting it to bio-ethylene. Ethylene, an unsaturated hydrocarbon, is a monomer and is the main component of plastic. Finally, Borealis—a company deeply committed to the circular economy—specializes in turning this monomer into small, hard plastic pellets.
The granules that you will use On as the basis for making high performance EVA foam. The latter will be incorporated into the Cloudprime running shoe. A sneaker whose performance and durability rival a shoe with EVA foam made from fossil resources.
Cloudprime, a green shoe from start to finish
In addition to this revolutionary EVA foam, On is collaborating with startup Novoloop on the outsole. Sole made from the world’s first chemically recycled TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane). TPU is made of post-consumer plastic waste.
Finally, for the top, On has signed a partnership with French startup Fairbrics. This will create a polyester-based fabric that is also made from carbon emissions.