Gaurav Sant, a professor at UCLA and director of UCLA’s Institute for Carbon Management, is overseeing a project to convert carbon dioxide emissions into building materials. The project just received a $2 million, two-year grant from the US Department of Energy.
Concrete, widely known as a construction material that has an enormous carbon footprint, has been one of the great white whales that scientists have sought to capture and tame. The production of cement results in more than 8% of the annual man-made carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Many technologies have been tried to reinvent concrete and make it more eco-friendly, and some have recently seen success. This UCLA project, however, is the first time that the material is actually being produced from the byproducts of other carbon-producing emissions.
Like traditional concrete, this new technology will be made from cementing agent, sand, water, stone and chemical additives. However, unlike standard concrete, the cementing process will take place via calcium hydroxide, which absorbs carbon dioxide from waste gas and forms limestone.
"We achieve such cementation in a matter of hours while being able to use a wide range of flue gases, and without the need for a carbon capture step," Sant said. "For these reasons, CO2Concrete offers a functional replacement to traditional concrete which offers similar performance at a similar price."
This project is one of five finalists in the running for a $7.5 million prize in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, which is looking for technology to turn carbon dioxide into valuable products.