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The MPCA is excited to announce that the winner of the 2023 MN Cup's $10,000 Green and Sustainable Chemistry Prize is Carba, a Minnesota company headquartered in Eden Prairie.

Using the waste of plants and trees that have captured atmospheric carbon, Carba’s hydrolysis technology converts that waste into graphitic carbon, which is then buried permanently in the ground.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies such as Carba’s are in growing demand as the world collectively addresses its need to reduce climate pollution.

Carba claims its technology outperforms other CDR methods with more efficient biomass-to-carbon conversion, offering lower removal costs for its carbon offset credit customers.

In their quest for carbon neutrality, some organizations can meet GHG reduction targets through conservation, switching fuels, or using offsets. Others cannot, and these organizations will make up Carba’s core market.

The CDR market is forecast to grow to $50 to $100 billion by 2030.

About the Prize

MN Cup is an annual competition for entrepreneurs, researchers, and inventors run by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. The competition connects emerging businesses with education, mentorship, and support to launch and accelerate the development of their new ventures.

As part of the competition, the MPCA offers a Sustainable Chemistry Prize of $10,000. The purpose of the prize is to increase sustainable chemistry awareness and innovation and to help those within Minnesota’s sustainable chemistry community connect with each other. 

The MPCA has adopted the Expert Committee on Sustainable Chemistry's recent definition of sustainable chemistry — "the development and application of chemicals, chemical processes, and products that benefit current and future generations without harmful impacts to humans or ecosystems" — as the basis for the prize.

The Sustainable Chemistry Prize is awarded to technologies and products that demonstrate safer or more sustainable chemistry than those already on the market providing the same function. Other judging criteria include:

  • use of one or more green chemistry principles 
  • demonstrable potential to reduce a product's effect on public health, especially children, workers, or disadvantaged communities
  • replacement of one or more Minnesota Chemicals of High Concern

Qualifying new technologies may be:

  • new chemistry or formulations
  • nonchemical technology that performs as needed without using hazardous substances (e.g., flame-resistant coating that doesn't use hazardous flame retardants)
  • a production-method improvement that reduces toxicity in a product's life cycle

Candidate companies and technologies should be:

  • at practical proof-of-concept stage (demonstration testing completed)
  • commercial or have a planned path to commercialization
  • in compliance with applicable MPCA regulations for the past three years

Formerly known as the Green and Sustainable Chemistry Prize, starting in 2024 it will be awarded as the Sustainable Chemistry Prize.

2022 winner

BKB Floral Foam was named 2022 winner of the Green and Sustainable Chemistry Prize for its work to create more sustainable alternatives to the foams currently used in the floral and horticultural industries.

Right now, these industries typically use a fossil fuel-derived foam made from phenol-formaldehyde to create floral arrangements from cut flowers. This material has life cycle toxicity issues and ends up in the trash after a single use.

BKB’s technology, based on discoveries made at the University of Minnesota in cooperation with the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sustainable Polymers, allows the startup to produce nontoxic, compostable alternatives. Switching to these foams provides benefits to the environment and human health, with an estimated market value of $500 million annually.

Along with MPCA staff, judges volunteered from Target (Chris Uecker), Ecolab (Oriana Raabe), Naturesfynd (Jim Millis), the University of Minnesota Chemistry department (Jane Wissinger), and 2018 MN Cup semifinalist Remooble (Tess Fennelly). Jane Wissinger recused herself from the final decision because she is associated with the Center for Sustainable Polymers. We appreciate their valuable contributions.