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Sustainable Concrete Created Using Direct Air Capture and Carbon Mineralization – How Effective Is It?

It is becoming increasingly evident that urgent action is required to mitigate the harmful effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In recent years, innovative technologies and sustainable practices have emerged to address this environmental challenge. One such solution is the combination of Direct Air Capture (DAC) and carbon mineralization techniques.

DAC technology enables the extraction of CO2 directly from the air, while carbon mineralization means transforming CO2 into stable mineral forms. Recently, American startup Heirloom, which runs the country’s only operational DAC facility, along with CarbonCure and Central Concrete, was able to integrate captured CO2 into concrete. This carbon-embedded concrete can massively contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.

How Does Direct Air Capture and Carbon Mineralization Create Sustainable Concrete?

Carbon capture is an effective strategy for mitigating carbon emissions and addressing climate change. While there are techniques that target large industrial facilities, DAC is an innovative approach that removes CO2 directly from the air.

Heirloom uses limestone, which is inexpensive and easily available, to pull CO2 from the air. First, the limestone is heated using a renewable energy-powered kiln and broken down into calcium oxide rock and CO2 gas. The calcium oxide is then spread onto vertically stacked tracks that act like a sponge, pulling CO2 from the air and permanently capturing it underground or as we saw earlier, stored in concrete.

Carbon mineralization, on the other hand, is a natural process that occurs over a long period, whereby CO2 reacts with certain minerals to form stable carbonates. What’s so special about this is the CO2 is captured permanently, meaning it cannot escape back into the atmosphere. CarbonCure’s Reclaimed Water Technology was then used to integrate Heirloom’s captured CO2 into recycled water which was then turned into concrete at Central Concrete’s plant.

“The technology injects CO2 into reclaimed water (recycled water collected from washing out concrete trucks) at concrete plants. When injected, the CO2 immediately reacts with cement in the water and mineralizes, permanently storing the CO2 and stabilizing the cement for reuse. The CO2-treated slurry is then used in new concrete mixes,” Heirloom’s blog reads.

CO2 becomes part of the concrete as calcium carbonate and stays locked in for hundreds of years, even if the concrete is taken apart or demolished.

Can this concrete be used in construction projects?

Now the major query that comes forward is can this concrete be used in construction projects. The strength of it, its integrity, is questionable. If we want to move on from traditional concrete to a sustainable option, we must carefully assess its performance and durability. Extensive research and testing are needed to ensure that it meets the necessary structural requirements and can withstand the rigors of various construction applications.

Is it sustainable? Sure. But we also need to address concerns regarding its strength and integrity to confidently integrate into large-scale construction and infrastructure projects. Researchers, industry experts, and regulatory bodies can work together to address these challenges and ensure the reliability of this alternative. By coming up with new decarbonizing methods, the construction industry gets one step closer to achieving net zero.

From transportation options to reducing carbon emissions from cement and concrete production, there is a growing need to explore sustainable alternatives that minimize the environmental impact of the construction industry.

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