Carbon Dioxide into Sustainable Concrete


J.R. DeShazo, left, director of the Luskin Center
for Innovation and Asso. Prof. Gaurav Sant,
in civil & environmental engineering, hold a
sample of the new building materials they
created replaces concrete

A team of interdisciplinary researchers at UCLA led by Gaurav Sant may have found a way to create a version of concrete that may eliminate greenhouse gases that are emitted from traditional cement.

Sant, an Indian American associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in civil and environmental engineering at the university, have led the scientific contributions of the research, which focuses on capturing carbon from power plant smokestacks and using it to create a new building material called CO2NCRETE. The new material would be fabricated using 3-D printers.

Concrete is made when mixing cement and water. Cement is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, a larger source of carbon dioxide emissions is flue gas emitted from smokestacks at power plants. The team of researchers, which includes Richard Kaner, Laurent Pilon and Matthieu Bauchy, are hoping the CO2NCRETE eliminates those environmental issues.

“The approach we are trying to propose is you look at carbon dioxide as a resource — a resource you can reutilize,” says Sant. “While cement production results in carbon dioxide, just as the production of coal or the production of natural gas does, if we can reutilize CO2 to make a building material which would be a new kind of cement, that’s an opportunity.”

“We hope to not only capture more gas, but we’re going to take that gas and, instead of storing it, which is the current approach, we’re going to try to use it to create a new kind of building material that will replace cement,” said J.R. DeShazo, Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, to India West.

Thus far, the materials have only been made in a lab setting using 3-D printers to shape it into tiny cones. The next step is to increase the volume of material for eventual commercial use.

“We can demonstrate a process where we take lime and combine it with carbon dioxide to produce a cement-like material,” Sant added. “The big challenge we foresee with this is we’re not just trying to develop a building material. We’re trying to develop a process solution, an integrated technology which goes right from CO2 to a finished product.”

The other challenge hovering over the project is sustainability, and proving to stakeholders that it is beneficial for all parties involved.

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