Green concrete inspired by photosynthesis

A Canadian start-up has developed a technology to recycle carbon dioxide gas back into solid concrete, which lowers its carbon footprint. The company looked to natural carbonation reactions for inspiration, such as coral formation and plant photosynthesis.

Cement is an active component of concrete that acts as a glue-like substance to give concrete its binding properties. But high amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted during cement production, raising concerns about the sustainability of concrete as a building material.

CarbonCure, a Halifax-based start-up, has now found a way to essentially reverse the cement process by trapping the carbon dioxide and reintroducing it back into the concrete, reports the Globe and Mail. Not only does this lower the carbon footprint of the concrete itself, it also means that when buildings made from CarbonCure concrete are demolished, the carbon dioxide will not escape.

The technology itself is only a suitcase-sized piece of machinery that can be retrofitted onto any existing production machinery at concrete plants. The device tells the equipment how and when to introduce the carbon dioxide into the concrete, explains the article.

According to Rob Niven, CEO of CarbonCure, the company’s researchers mimicked natural carbonation reactions found in coral formation and plant photosynthesis to find a way to harness these processes and reuse waste carbon dioxide to make a more sustainable concrete. And interest in the new technology is high: CarbonCure is currently running six pilot projects in Ontario, but it has already been approached by potential customers from around the world.


Photo credit: Washington State Department of Transportation, flickr/Creative Commons

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