Cambridge Engineers Develop Zero Carbon Cement

This could totally rewrite the story of concrete and steel.

Engineers at Cambridge University claim to have invented the “world’s first-ever zero-emissions cement” that they’re calling Cambridge Electric Cement. The team—consisting of Dr. Cyrille Dunant, Dr. Pippa Horton, and Prof. Julian Allwood—is part of UK Fires, an organization we covered for its Absolute Zero report. While Vitruvius and Roman engineers that invented pozzolanic cement might argue about priority, Cambridge Electric Cement is a real accomplishment in the modern age.

The basic problem of cement starts with chemistry and the formula CaCO3 + heat > CaO + CO2; you cook calcium carbonate at 1,450 degrees Celsius (2,642 degrees Fahrenheit) with lots of fossil fuel and you get clinker and lots of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is what the industry has called the “chemical fact of life.” Clinker is ground into powder and mixed with other ingredients to get cement. Cement is then mixed with aggregate, mainly gravel and sand, to make concrete, which is reinforced with steel to make buildings and structures.

You can reduce the emissions from the cooking of calcium carbonate, but you can’t do anything about the chemistry. This is the fundamental reason that we have called concrete the most destructive material on earth and recently complained about concrete icebergs.

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