New Material Mondays: Clean Cement
It's not one of the issues that gets a lot of press, but concrete (specifically cement) manufacturing is pretty bad on the sustainability scale. The traditional way of making cement involves heating limestone to outrageously high temperatures in an effort to extract carbon dioxide. Not only does all this heating take energy, but of course we use tons and tons of concrete every day.
But wait, said Brent Constantz to himself, coral is a lot like cement, and they manage to grow without high temperatures or mining limestone. And there Calera was born. They've developed a whole new way to make cement. Using waste heat and the carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants as main ingredients, their method actually sequesters carbon. Yes, not carbon-neutral, but carbon-negative manufacturing!
This is an example of biomimicry at its best: not just copying what nature looks like, but learning how it works. I hope to see more and more materials using the lifecycles of the natural world as inspiration.
Read more at the New York Times.
Coral image from NOAA