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Pyrolysium: Pyrolysium, so Green only Carbon remains!

Arnhem, Netherlands
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Pyrolysium is a web platform for the promotion and development of pyrolysis as an efficient way to dispose of human remains using the least amount of energy possible. Pyrolysium is a low-tech, viable alternative to current standard burial and cremation practices.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could dispose of deseased loved ones with concentrated sunlight!
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Humanity has long traveled along an unsustainable path and is now confronted with a scarcity of fossil fuels, rising global temperatures due to a higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and an exponentially rising population. Pyrolysium helps in all these areas. It does not lay claim to land that we need to grow food. It limits the use of scarce fossil fuels and reduces the formation of CO2. Pyrolysium turns human remains into biochar.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Pyrolysis of human remains can be done with concentrated solar energy or infrared radiation provided by sustainable generated electricity. It works in fact with every source of heat that can be sustained for the duration of the process. It works in low tech environments as well in space colonies where oxygen is scarce and natural decomposing won't work in absence of microbiological organisms. The produced biochar is chemical an biological stable and can be used to plant a commemorative tree. Terra Preta the carbon rich soils found in the Amazon basin was a huge inspiration for the development of Pyrolysium.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

With more than 50% of the world-population living in cities and mega-cities popping up everywhere, the strain on the natural world and the recourses is ever growing. People are competing worldwide over scarce energy and energy poverty impacts the least fortunate especially hard. Care for deceased people is a task that needs to be preformed if not by direct relatives than by authorities. Fortunately most of humanity lives in the insolation belt around the equator where the sun in principle provides enough energy to make pyrolysis of human remains a viable alternative, direct with concentrated solar radiation, with stored heat or renewable generated electricity. We can't continue to depend on unsustainable practices from the past.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Pyrolysium has build to day three pyrolysis furnaces. With the first we proved the principle, the second one proved the practice the third proved that a mammal can be completely be carbonized with infra-red radiation. Our new and fourth furnace is a demonstration model that we will use to show to interested third parties and use to measure exactly how much energy is needed and which gases are formed during the process. The Dutch laws around corpse disposal prohibit working with human remains but a pet-pyrolysium seems a fertile testing ground. In the next year we will therefore try to establish a commercial subsidiary that will start a pet-pyrolysium in Amsterdam. If it works in the biggest urban area in the Netherlands, other big European cities are logical expansion grounds. Pyrolysis is compared to cremation very energy efficient because it doesn't waste energy.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Pyrolysis has the potential to make cremation obsolete. We have to stop burning fossil fuels especially in avoidable situations. Pyrolysis with concentrated solar radiation it's a sustainable method that can be implemented more or less directly it will work for the rest of eternity. Where sunshine is intermittent the heat can be stored in a molten salt or converted in electricity and used to generate infrared radiation. Because pyrolysis is a heat driven process is doesn't matter as long as it's hot enough. Pyrolysium placed this concept in a 'Creative Commons License' for humanity to use.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The Pyrolysium Foundation is a recognized Public Benefit Organisation (PBOs) by the Dutch government. The last two years we have tried to find a adequate funding source but so far we've been unsuccessful. We hope by public demonstrations convince more people of the validity of our concept. Starting a subsidiary for a pet-pyrolysium will bring our financial need easily above the 200.000 EURO.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Besides burial and cremation are there two new technologies trying to enter the marketplace. Resomation dissolving corpse in potassium hydroxide and cryomation dry-freezing with liquid nitrogen, shatter the corpse and let nature take over in a shallow grave. All these four methods are depending on business as usual generous energy inputs and long supply lines. Pyrolysium proposes an alternative for the rest of eternity based on solar radiation or renewable generated electricity her on earth or for space colonies. It's the ultimate green sustainable corpse handling innovation.

Founding Story

I was reading about peak-oil, overpopulation, “Terra Preta” and biochar in 2009 and after making batches biochar for soil improvement from garden residue, I thought, why not make biochar from corpses. Deeply worried about the unsustainable path ‘we’ as humanity have taken, I see a future where fossil fuels are scarce, the western economic growth model in tatters, the global temperature rises due to the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere with an growing population reaching billions more humans than is sustainable? Thinking along those paths, the question “how can we dispose so efficiently and with the least amount of energy of human remains” became the starting point. It has been so far interesting and I hope to see it become a reality.


At this moment there is only a foundation under Dutch law with a board of three members.