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August 17, 2022

Carbon Negative Cement

Cement is one of the most widely used industrial materials, essential in the construction of buildings and highways. The United Nations predicts that, by 2050, two-thirds of the world's population will be gathered into cities, demanding more new buildings, more new roads, more cement? Yet, the manufacture of cement contributes up to 8% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. What is the solution, as we handle the increasing demand for new infrastructure? Is there an alternative? Learn more on NSF's "The Discovery Files."

Credit: National Science Foundation

Carbon Negative Cement

This is The Discovery Files, from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Did you know that, when it comes to CO2 pollution worldwide, the manufacture of cement is one of the top contributors? It is responsible for up to 8% of global CO2 emissions, that according to a 2018 study published by international affairs think tank Chatham House.

The United Nations predict that, by 2050, two-thirds of the world's population will be gathered in cities, demanding more new buildings, more new roads, more cement? What is the alternative?

With support from NSF and the Department of Energy, researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison, the University of Illinois Chicago, the Pennsylvania State University, and Fort Lewis College are taking on the challenge, exploring how to manufacture carbon negative cement.

The team is pioneering a process to capture carbon from the air and use it to convert industrial mineral wastes, like coal ash, into a recyclable material that replaces cement.

The goal is to create a durable, versatile building material that permanently stores CO2, by pulling more carbon out of the atmosphere, than is emitted during its manufacture.

The team has also developed a method to produce calcium hydroxide, an essential cement ingredient, by recycling crushed concrete and coal ash to make a novel concrete, potentially shortening supply chains and promoting sustainability in that industry.

These two innovative cement processes could dramatically shrink carbon and landfill footprints worldwide.

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