The Swiss sports brand On has presented its first running shoe with a foam midsole based on materials derived from carbon emissions. Called CleanCloud, the new EVA foam is the result of a supply chain partnership that next to On, also included LanzaTech, Borealis and Technip Energies.
The CleanCloud project took 5 years of development work by the partners in the effort.
This collaborative approach, said On, is key to overcoming the challenges of developing this complex technology at a commercial scale.
The new Cloudprime shoe is a ‘real milestone’ – not only for On, but for the whole sports industry, said Caspar Coppetti, Co-Founder and Executive Co-Chairman of On.
“Five years ago, this was barely a dream. Imagine what can happen in the future as we unlock the potential of alternative carbon sources with further research and in collaboration with the best partners.”
The foam has been developed based on technology from LanzaTech that captures carbon monoxide emitted from industrial sources like steel mills before being released into the atmosphere. Once captured, the emissions enter a patented fermentation process. Bacteria then ferment the carbon-rich gas into ethanol, a process similar to that of conventional alcohol production – e.g., beer brewing. The ethanol is then dehydrated to create ethylene by Technip Energies, which is then polymerised by Borealis to become the EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) that On works with to create a performance foam for shoes.
LanzaTech is on a mission to show the world that recycled carbon is a resource rather than a liability. “As we increasingly convert pollution into the products we use in our daily lives, we will reduce the need to extract more carbon from the ground!” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “The partnership between On, Borealis, Technip and LanzaTech will change how the world thinks about sourcing carbon, enabling us to bend the carbon curve, keep our skies blue, and create a sustainable future for all.”
As On moves away from using fossil feedstock, the company is exploring other, alternative materials for producing high-performance sports products. And the company’s ambition is to bring the CleanCloud technology to as many consumers as possible in the near future.
“We believe that On can be an agent for positive change through enabling and accelerating the scale up of sustainable technologies such as CleanCloud”, said Caspar Coppetti.
To that end, On is currently collaborating with circular start-up Novoloop on the creation of a CleanCloud outsole, utilising the world’s first chemically upcycled TPU from post-consumer plastic waste. The outsole was put under rigorous lab and athlete testing, meeting specifications comparable to fossil-derived TPUs with a significant carbon footprint reduction.
For the upper, On is collaborating with the young French start-up Fairbrics to create a polyester-based textile made from carbon emissions.
Fairbrics Airwear's technology, aimed at producing polyester yarn with a very low carbon footprint, has 5 patents pending. After being captured from industrial sources or from the air, greenhouse gas CO2 is converted to a raw material of polyester with the help of special catalysts, then polymerised to create polyester pellets which are spun into yarn and finally into fabrics. Fairbrics says that in the near future, its technology hopes to produce carbon negative 100% sustainable polyester. The company is currently building its first industrial facility.