A construction product company, in association with scientists and engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder, plans to use naturally occurring microalgae to make zero-carbon products. Prometheus Materials will make a bio-cement like the stuff coral uses to construct reefs and oysters use to make their shells by combining microalgae with water, sunshine, and CO2 in a patent-pending photosynthetic biocementation process.
“To prevent catastrophic climate change, we cannot simply replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy – we must also decarbonize the way we create building materials,” said Loren Burnett, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Prometheus Materials. “By using biological rather than chemical means to create a strong, durable binding agent for aggregate, we can now offer a zero-carbon alternative to carbon-intensive portland cement. Our bio-cement will transform architecture as we know it, by providing the construction industry with a new decarbonized building material that has environmental and mechanical properties that mirror or exceed the capabilities of concrete, wood, steel, and glass.”
At its manufacturing plant in Longmont, Colorado, Prometheus Materials will utilise the funding to produce zero-carbon masonry units for sale. The goods will be promoted to building professionals such as architects, engineers, property and facility developers, and others as an inexpensive, robust, and long-lasting zero-carbon substitute for concrete masonry units made of portland cement (commonly known as concrete blocks). There are now pilot projects employing masonry modules made by Prometheus Materials.
According to a Chatham House analysis, the manufacture and transportation of the 4 billion tonnes of portland cement produced each year require carbon-intensive procedures that account for 8% of all yearly CO2 emissions worldwide. This new material avoids such operations. This, along with the product’s capacity to store carbon throughout the manufacturing process, leads to a decrease in embodied carbon of almost 90% when compared to products currently based on Portland cement.
“Coral reefs, shells, and even the limestone we use to produce cement today show us that nature has already figured out how to bind minerals together in a strong, clever, and efficient way,” says Dr Wil Srubar III, Co-founder and Chief Technology Advisor at Prometheus Materials. “By working with nature to use existing microalgae to bind minerals and other materials together to create new types of sustainable building materials, we can eliminate most, if not all, of the carbon emissions associated with traditional concrete-based building materials.”
Leading European life sciences venture capital business Sofinnova Partners focuses on healthcare and sustainability. The company, which has offices in Paris, London, and Milan, has a global team of experts with strong backgrounds in science, medicine, and business. the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), GAF, and The Autodesk Foundation participates in the same.
The range of major organizations now working on relevant strategies to decarbonize cement production includes the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Energy Agency (IEA) – working with the industry-led Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) – and the Energy Transitions Commission, an initiative involving high-level energy experts and stakeholders aimed at accelerating the transition to low-carbon energy systems.