Carbon Upcycling UCLA | Turning Carbon Dioxide into CO2NCRETE™

March 27, 2018

Carbon Upcycling UCLA featured on NRG COSIA Carbon X Prize blog

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May 31, 2017

Carbon Upcycling UCLA receives $1.5 million donation from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation

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January 25, 2017

Carbon Upcycling Featured in ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Blog

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Turning Carbon Dioxide into CO2NCRETE™

To avoid catastrophic climate change, the world needs cleaner energy and CO2-neutral building materials. UCLA’s team is on the path to create just that.

Finding a large scale beneficial use for waste carbon dioxide. UCLA’s breakthrough technology first captures CO2 from power plant smokestacks. Then, the captured CO2 is “trapped” to produce a new type of CO2-neutral building material that can be used like cement.

By removing CO2 from power plant smokestacks this technology reduces the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. By creating a CO2-neutral building material it also displaces cement, which is one of the largest industrial sources of emissions, responsible for approximately 5% of global CO2. Once commercialized, this technology offers a much lower-CO2 emissions trajectory for the construction and power sectors across the globe while promoting environmentally sustainable growth.

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How the Breakthrough Process Works

Carbon upcycling is based on the integration of several technologies into a closed-loop, to fabricate CO2NCRETE™, a near CO2-neutral construction material. The process is designed to efficiently utilize flue gas exhausted from point source emitters (e.g., power plants and cement plants), by efficiently recovering waste heat and enriching CO2 present in the gas stream. A novel binder system based on calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime) is mixed with aggregates and admixtures to form a shape-stabilized CO2NCRETE™ building element. The final, and key step lies in combining the captured CO2 with CO2NCRETE™ element via a carbonation reaction (i.e., CO2-mineralization) to form a solid building component. These elements can be used like Lego® to rapidly assemble buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure traditionally constructed with concrete.

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Unique Team Tackles CO2 Challenge

UCLA has brought together researchers from the fields of chemistry and biochemistry, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and economics. For team details, see this page.

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Better building designs & lower construction costs

The future of construction needs advanced material systems to enable leaps forward in constructability, structural efficiency, and resilience. As a material, CO2NCRETE™ is designed to meet these goals with its adaptability to a wide array of forming and manufacturing techniques, rapid strength development, and Lego®-like assembly. While CO2NCRETE™ may be hand-molded similar to traditional concrete, its unique reaction mechanism makes it readily adaptable to additive manufacturing techniques (i.e., 3D-printing). The accelerated strength gain by carbonation, coupled with the tight quality controls and efficiency of the CO2NCRETE™ prefabrication paradigm will accelerate construction timelines, while reducing labor intensity.

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The Time is Now

The Paris Convention held in November 2015 has shifted the global perspective on the fight against climate change. As the world unites to reach a common goal of reducing carbon dioxide in order to keep warming below 1.5 °C, it is necessary to target the major worldwide emitters of carbon. However, just as critical, is to consider the potentially huge impacts new climate policy could have on the building industry. Improved and new infrastructure is desperately needed across the globe.

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What’s Next

UCLA has demonstrated viability of the process and now seeks to embark on a lab-scale proof-of-concept that is expected to take around 18 months. Achieving this proof-of-concept will allow the commercialization of the new technology in the following 5-7 years. Currently, UCLA seeks funds to support the lab scale proof-of-concept.