The second most abundant man-made material in the world is being used by a startup to “imprison” carbon dioxide produced by factories before it is released into the atmosphere.
The material? Concrete. Startup: CarbonCureIn addition to sequestering carbon and reducing emissions, it solves a major longevity problem within concrete: strengthening the material and reducing production costs.
With so many merits, it is as surprising as it is exciting to see that private sector giants like Amazon, Alibaba Group and Mitsubishi are pouring money into the small, low-key Halifax firm that launched more than a dozen years ago.
“CarbonCure is on track to achieve 500 megatons of CO reduction annually, helping to decarbonize the built environment while positioning the concrete industry to lead the transition to the new low-carbon economy,” said CarbonCure CEO and Founder. , Robert Niven, in a statement.
How much are 500 megatons? Let’s talk about equivalents. One megaton in the metric system represents 1 million metric tons. CarbonCure is on track to remove 500 million metric tons of carbon per year.
According to the EPA, 500 million metric tons is equivalent to 126 coal plants fired non-stop for a year, or the electricity consumption of 91 million homes during a year. In smaller numbers, it’s what 109 million passenger vehicles create per year by driving, or the total emissions by vaporizing 56 billion gallons of gasoline.
It’s no wonder then that, with this incredible potential, CarbonCure won the 2020 American Cleantech Company of the Year award by Cleantech Group of San Francisco.
How does it work
CleanTech has already captured 118 million tons of carbon so far, which has been mainly purchased from chemical engineering plants that make things like ammonia or ethanol.
A small, easy-to-fit device, known colloquially as the “box,” joins a CO2 tank with a concrete mix. Inside is the company’s secret technology, which injects CO2 in such a way that convert it from gas to solid.
A water-based solution activates CO2 to create carbonate ions early in the mixing process. The cement within concrete, the key ingredient responsible for its thousands of years of use but also its high emissions profile, contains calcium ions to which carbonate binds, creating calcium carbonate.
These small pieces of limestone help strengthen concrete, but they also solve a major longevity problem. Over time, concrete can absorb CO2 from the air, causing it to shrink and corrode steel embedded in it, such as rebar, causing a major headache, especially when maintaining bridges and overpasses. .
Calcium carbonate helps concrete resist this shrinkage, giving producers or builders even more reason to employ CarbonCure technology.
Amazon, for example, is building a new Goliath headquarters in Virginia and using CarbonCure for all the concrete in the building, while Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the brainchild of Bill Gates, and Mitsubishi Corp have injected a lot of capital to help the company hit that huge 500 megaton target.
Right now, carbon sequestration is mostly limited to natural sources like trees, which don’t have as much economic value as electricity, steel or concrete, but if humanity can add its most powerful and prolific building materials to the family of CO2 hijackers, then the climate crisis is almost resolved.
(LOOK CNN’s video on CarbonCure’s work below).
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