Estonian technology start-up UP Catalyst and Norwegian start-up SafeRock joined forces in the Norway Grants „Green ICT“ programme carried out by Enterprise Estonia to start producing CO2 negative concrete with enhanced mechanical properties. The project, which secured a €400k grant for the first phase development, has the potential to add a new, innovative process to the carbon intensive construction sector. As a result, concrete as the most widely used building material in the world, could become a sustainable product.
Concrete manufacturing alone is responsible for about 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions and the production levels are only increasing. Conrete is already being produced in over 4 billion tonne quantities per year. By 2050, concrete use is predicted to reach four times the 1990 level. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that for every kilogram of cement produced, around the same amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. „The development of new concrete additives could produce a stronger, more workable material whilst reducing the amount of cement required and the resulting CO2 emissions“, mentioned Gary Urb, CEO of UP Catalyst.
The 1-year project titled „CO2-negative concrete as a sustainable and scalable building material“ was submitted to the Green ICT as a joint effort by UP Catalyst and Saferock. The cooperation between the start-ups to produce the next generation low emission building material does not come as a surprise. UP Catalyst is producing sustainable carbon materials using industrial CO2 as a feedstock and SafeRock is developing and commercializing sustainable geopolymer concrete. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) particularly are known to possess a high ratio of elasticity, tensile strength and yield strain, which make it an attractive reinforcing material for concrete. Research suggests that adding just 0,1% of carbon nanomaterials in concrete mixture increases flexural strength gain up to 53%.
This is immensely important as, in the future, concrete could be twice as thin while having the same strength properties. Furthermore, if the stronger concrete and carbon nanomaterials mixture allows to produce even a quarter of less concrete, it would save the world almost 10 million tons of CO2 per year.
The technology to use carbon nanomaterials in concrete manufacturing on this scale is new. Within the next couple of years using carbon nanomaterial based product still needs to be matured. „We need to prove the industrial and commercial scalability of the technology before it can truly shake the whole construction industry, but it is more possible now than ever, ” said Espen Lea, CEO of SafeRock.
The project is set out to begin on the 1st of May 2022 and lasts for one year.