Using coral as inspiration, researchers have taken an idea and have turned it into a company looking to reduce carbon dioxide levels and reduce the reliance on CO2-laden Portland cement in the construction industry. Stanford scientist Brent Constanz turned his study of coral into an idea to produce “Green cement” to replace the carbon-intensive Portland cement, the third largest source of carbon dioxide produced by humans.
Using a process many of us running a calcium reactor are familiar with, Contsanz used CO2 infused through seawater and other mineral-heavy waters to precipitate carbonates that not only lock up the CO2 but could be used create viable product — cement.
After learning that every ton of Portland cement produces one ton of atmospheric CO2, Constanz new there had to be a way to utilize that CO2 and remove it from the atmosphere. Using biomimicry from his study of coral calcification, he created a process that was the genesis for the company Calera that is using CO2 to create the alternative cement.
The company is already set up in plant set a pilot program in California’s Monterrey Bay using waste CO2 gas from the Moss Landing power plant at to create carbonates that can be used in cement. Although this plant is using seawater due to its proximity of a large source of CO2, the Calera process works better using geologic brines where the calcium levels are much higher than in sea water.
The technology is promising and it is inspiring to see how our fascination and knowledge of corals can be used to lessen our CO2 impact on the environment in turn preventing acidification of the oceans and the potential impact on the ability of coral reefs to grow. Also check out this Fast Company story with a video interview with Constanz.