With concrete so widely in use today, it seems unimaginable for the world to do away with it. The material is indeed useful but its production, unfortunately, results in about 5 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the planet.
That's a lot, so a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles set out to develop an alternative that harnesses all of the benefits of concrete in a more sustainable form, calling the result of their work CO2NCRETE.
It's because their sustainable concrete relies on carbon captured from smokestacks. By making concrete a green option and utilizing excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the researchers were able to turn something problematic into something valuable.
In fact, J.R. DeShazo, one of the researchers, decided to become a part of the project because he saw it as a possible climate policy game-changer.
"This technology tackles global climate change, which is one of the biggest challenges that society faces now and will face over the next century," he said.
For the research, DeShazo offered economic and public policy guidance that was incorporated into the work of Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Richard Kaner, professor in chemistry and biochemistry, and materials science and engineering, Laurent Pilon, professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering and bioengineering and Matthieu Bauchy, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering.
While this isn't the first time that scientists have captured carbon emissions released by power plants, the project is the first attempt at turning captured carbon dioxide into something useful.
The researchers are optimistic about the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, particularly in areas where coal-fire power plants are commonly used. And if their sustainable concrete proves effective, they can share the development with other countries like China who are significant contributors to the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
Having produced CO2NCRETE in the lab, the researchers' next move is to develop it further and make it available commercially, showing sustainable concrete can be used in the real world.
According to the researchers, they are not merely trying to come up with a building material. Rather, they are developing a process solution that involves integrating technology to make it possible to go from a primary component like carbon dioxide directly to a finished product, which is CO2NCRETE.