Explore how researchers worldwide are developing groundbreaking strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete, aiming to revolutionise the construction industry with carbon-neutral cement and eco-friendly practices.
The vast use of concrete in building structures worldwide significantly contributes to global carbon emissions. Concrete is predominantly composed of cement – particularly Portland cement – which is responsible for a major portion of its carbon footprint. In 2021, over 4 billion tons of cement production contributed to 8% of global CO2 emissions.
Researchers, like Sam Draper and Barney Shanks from Imperial College London, are exploring alternatives to reduce these carbon emissions, by inventing a method to create carbon-neutral cement. This innovative process employs a mineral called olivine, divided into silica and magnesium. Silica replaces a portion of the Portland cement used in concrete, and the magnesium is mixed with CO2 to create magnesium carbonate for construction materials. The resultant concrete is carbon-neutral, providing a large-scale, long-lasting solution for CO2 sequestration.
Draper and Shanks initiated their testing in 2020 and founded a company called Seratech in 2021. Their cement performs at par with the Portland variant, a factor they assert is critical for the product’s acceptance within the construction industry. Despite being currently expensive due to its research stage, they expect the cost to be comparable with traditional cement upon scaling up.
Other start-ups, like CarbonCure and Carbicrete, are also developing ways to store CO2 within concrete, reinforcing the concrete’s strength and potentially eliminating cement’s necessity.
In the United Arab Emirates, researchers are simultaneously addressing the environmental problems of concrete’s carbon footprint and the impact of seawater desalination. Kemal Celik from NYU Abu Dhabi, has discovered a method to use the magnesium from desalination brine to make cement, reducing CO2 emissions and turning a waste product into a valuable resource.
These innovative approaches are making strides towards reducing the carbon footprint of the construction industry and transforming it into a more sustainable sector. However, adoption by the historically resistant construction industry will be a significant challenge.
- In 2021, over 4 billion tons of cement production contributed to 8% of global CO2 emissions.
- This innovative process employs a mineral called olivine, divided into silica and magnesium. Silica replaces a portion of the Portland cement used in concrete, and the magnesium is mixed with CO2 to create magnesium carbonate for construction materials