Decarbonite: Quest Alum, Dan Ellis, Develops New Carbon Sequestering Material
Dan Ellis—a Quest University alum— is an interdisciplinary designer engaged in design-led innovation and climate change.
Ellis has created a product that is catching the attention of engineers and architects alike. “Along with my partners, I’ve developed a new, carbon sequestering material, called Decarbonite” explained Ellis. “Decarbonite is a rigid sheet material made primarily from biochar, which is a key ingredient that affords Decarbonite its high carbon sequestering properties.”
Since hitting the media, Decarbonite has become a hot topic for anyone who wants to get their hands on a sustainable material. “The industry preview went really well; I spoke to architects and furniture makers all night. At times, there was a queue to approach my table,” said Ellis in a recent interview.
It’s been six years since Ellis first enrolled at Quest in 2016, but like many Quest alum, he has already racked up an impressive list of accomplishments: Ellis won the 1851 Royal commission Studentship—a prestigious grant awarded to 10 industrial design and engineering students in the UK; he was also awarded the Rodney Fitch Scholarship for his work on MA Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins; and for his senior thesis at Quest, Ellis wrote a book titled Design for Climate Change that explores the intersections of speculative design and climate science.
During his MA, Ellis worked at the forefront of climate innovation for multiple sectors, including aviation, transport, and the built environment. This work culminated in his research attempts to optimize the carbon sequestering potential of regenerative materials, out of which, Decarbonite was born.
“Perfecting the recipe and finding the right fabrication methods was a long research journey—it involved lots of phone calls, meetings, and research.” Said Ellis, elaborating on the development of Decarbonite. “The final fabrication process essentially involves processing, mixing, heating and then eventually pressing the ingredients under a lot of pressure. At first, I did a lot of this manually and ruined many of my favorite t-shirts.”
Ellis attributes Quest University for much of his real-world preparedness, “Quest made me resilient to working hard, Dr. Eric Gorham taught me how to write (which I’ve since realized is invaluable) . . . and now, surrounded by peers from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, there is still no undergraduate degree that I would rather have.”
“It was a magical time for me—surrounded by a huge community of friends and mentors that I loved—it was the greatest 4 years of my life,” said Ellis, reflecting on his undergraduate studies.
“At Quest, I developed a love for nature in the tantalus mountains that I had never expected. When you love something, you want to protect it.” Ellis said, sharing how his passion for environmental conservation first started to take root. “Wanting to go into climate change research was a combination of my studies at Quest and waking up in my riverside apartment every morning, watching the clouds dance in and out of the mountains.”
“The most helpful thing Quest gave me, with regard to choosing what would become my academic focus, was being able to narrow down my interests by learning which fields I found superficially interesting and which I found continually and deeply interesting.”
Ellis is looking forward to working as a sustainable design consultant after graduating, “The main motivation behind my studies has always been to make the world a better place, so naturally I’m interested in problems that people face; I like thinking about how to fix them.”
To find out more about Decarbonite, visit danellisdesign.com