Mind & Matter


Carbon-Trapping Concrete

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Calera cement production. Photo by Jim Wilson, The New York Times.


It is commonly known that concrete is a leading contributor to global warming, and is responsible for up to 5 percent of the total global carbon footprint. The reason may be attributed to the CO2 released during the kilning process, as well as the energy embodied in the material. Given concrete’s near ubiquity in the construction industry, this negative environmental score has inspired many material researchers to look for improvements.

Silicon Valley–based Calera has received significant press lately because of their intent to reduce not only the carbon footprint of concrete, but also the footprint of coal-based energy production as well. Sound like alchemy? Scientists are certainly skeptical. While the company’s idea to capture CO2 in cement using seawater is compelling, scaleability and economic distribution remain holy grails for this process. We can hope that Calera makes early strides in the achievement of their goal, for large-scale supply will be a long-term prospect.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.