Sustainable concrete

A sample of a new building material created to replace concrete. Credit: UCLA Luskin

Carbon dioxide keeps growing at a rate that the normal adsorption of the oceans is no longer able to keep it in equilibrium. The more carbon dioxide in the Earth atmosphere and the warmer our planets gets (because the irradiation that is dissipating heat in the outer space is diminished) the warmer the oceans and the less they are able to capture carbon dioxide in a vicious circle making the situation worser and worser.

Politicians are in principle agreeing on the need to decrease carbon dioxide production but that means cutting on transportation, on cattle farming, on goods production... and all of this decreases our wellbeing. This latter is not a good recipe for getting re-elected, hence the caution of politicians when it comes to put into practice their press statements.

Another approach would be to complement the oceans work in capturing CO2 and we have several technologies for doing that. However, once you have captured CO2 what are you going to do with that? The oceans enlist the help of mollusks that transform CO2 into nice shells. 
Now scientists at UCLA have perfected a system to capture CO2 from smokestacks of power plants, as it is being dumped into the atmosphere, and use it to produce concrete (that produced in the normal way is responsible for 5% of the world CO2 emission). Interestingly the production of concrete is using 3D printers.

As most innovation it is still in its infancy, and researchers are now working to have it transformed into an industrial process that could significantly help Countries like US, China and India that use coal to produce electricity to reduce the amount of CO2 released by their coal power plants in the atmosphere, produce concrete at an affordable cost and in a way that does not release CO2 in the atmosphere. A double win that benefits all of on this little planet.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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