As concerns about climate change and sustainability increase every year, green technology innovations have risen to the challenge to offer promising and effective solutions. One such innovation is a new concrete making technique put forth by CarbonCure, a Canadian startup company dedicated to reducing carbon emissions by 500 megatons per year. This company has been making a major impact on the carbon footprint of the concrete industry since 2015, when they were awarded a US patent protection for their new technology which harnesses and injects carbon dioxide into concrete mixtures.
Concrete is used as building material all over the planet, and the production of its main ingredient, cement, releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere every year. To reduce this impact, CarbonCure’s technology collects CO2 emissions from industrial plants that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and injects them into concrete during the mixing process. As described by its official patent, the calcium ions found in cement react with the CO2 “before precipitating as a stable or metastable species, e.g., calcium carbonate”. According to Kevin Cail, CarbonCure’s Chief Technology Officer, the embedded calcium carbonate increases the concrete’s strength by 10 to 20 percent. This means that structures built with CO2 -injected concrete will be able to withstand more natural forces like earthquakes and erosion, making it more environmentally sustainable based on strength alone!
The biggest impact of CarbonCure’s concrete has been trapping carbon emissions into its formula permanently. When the carbon and calcium form calcium carbonate, gaseous CO2 ceases to exist. This means that even when buildings made of CarbonCure materials break down or are demolished, the CO2 will not be re- released into the atmosphere because it is no longer a greenhouse gas. In effect, this exciting new technology removes CO2 waste from the atmosphere by trapping it in a concrete mixture and creates a more sustainable
version of one of society’s most foundational materials.
The new technology has been installed in several places. Its biggest structure so far is a 360,000 square foot building in Atlanta, Georgia. This building opened in 2019, and, according to CarbonCure’s website, the carbon-injected concrete has already sequestered 680 tonnes of CO2 - the same amount of CO2 that would be absorbed by an 800-acre forest in a year. This young company clearly shows great promise as a pioneer of sustainable technology in construction materials like concrete.