A unique idea that is designed to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is being developed by a UCLA research team. They hope to turn CO2 into a material that is similar to concrete.
CO2 would be collected from smokestacks. Once collected, the chemical would be processed for later use in 3D printing on a large scale.
The plan devised by the researchers involves a closed loop process. CO2 NCRETE, a new building material, would be created using the carbon captured from the ubiquitous smokestacks on power plants. Using a process known as upcycling, in which waste is changed into a useful but different product, it will be fabricated using 3D printers.
The cement industry will become more environmentally friendly by this new method of carbon capture. Currently, the industry produces 5% of all yearly carbon emissions. Water and cement become concrete’s binding agent when they are combined.
CO2 NCRETE From Upcycled CO2
In an image from UCLA, Gaurav Sant and J.R. DeShazo (on the left) show material that hopefully will replace concrete one day. This new building material is made from CO2.
The possibility that something valuable can come from something that is toxic using this new type of upcycling technology has the Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs J.R. DeShazo very excited.
The fact that something valuable can be created from carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks, a real environmental nuisance, using this technology is amazing, he says.
When it comes to climate policy, he realized that it could change the game, so he wanted to get involved in the project. Global climate change is tackled by this technology, which our society is facing now and will be dealing with for at least the next hundred year as its greatest challenge.
The carbon emissions coming from power plants have been successfully captured in the past and there are plenty more objects that produce it if you see this infographic from Eco2greetings. However, once the CO2 has been captured, the challenge has changed to finding a use for it.
Economic and public policy guidance for this research has been provided by DeShazo. Contributions to the science have come from: Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering Matthieu Bauchy; Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Bioengineering Laurent Pilon: Distinguished Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry and Materials Science and Engineering Richard Kaner; and Associate Professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environment Engineering Gaurav Sant.
DeShazo’s vision of using the gas that has been captured is to create a new type of material for building and put it to good use.
Not only will more gas be captured, he says, but that gas will no longer just be stored, as is currently done. He says that we are going to use it to replace cement by creating a new material for building in our society.
By creating a cement alternative that is more environmentally friendly, the team doing research at UCLA wants to give the construction industry an entirely new material through its manufacturing process.
Currently, 3D printers are used to shape the material that has been produced into tiny cones. Only lab scale production has been attempted, to date. However, their success in the lab provides proof of concept. The next step is to begin thinking about how to pilot the project commercially as we learn the process of increasing the volumes of material created. In the lab, it is one thing to prove that these technologies work. However, to find out how they work under conditions in the real world are quite another thing.
A current challenge is to expand printing capacities into 5 m long blocks that are usable from the current 5 cm long samples that have been successfully printed.
Photo Credit: Staffan Vilcans via Flickr