An article I read on Sourceable.net recently detailed a new, revolutionary invention that could significantly reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
The cross-disciplinary team from UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) have discovered a way to capture the carbon dioxide released by power plants and utilise it as an ingredient in a concrete building material, produced during additive manufacturing processes.
According to the team, the process involves first removing the carbon dioxide that is normally discharged into the atmosphere by coal or gas based power plants. Once extracted, the carbon dioxide is combined with lime to produce a cement-like material.
The material can then be made into a solid component for building by means of 3D printing. As the writer of the post highlights, this method translates into countless possibilities with respect to the precise shape or configuration of the final product.
The team has apparently already made a successful proof of concept, having printed a set of small cones using the carbon-based concrete and also plan on testing the material under real world conditions soon.
In the article Gaurav Sant, associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the development of the concrete involves the creation of complete and effective technological process. A major obstacle to this process is the ability to produce building components at a larger scale. He went on to explain:
“We can demonstrate a process where we take lime and combine it with carbon dioxide to produce a cement-like material,” said Sant. “The big challenge we foresee with this is we’re not just trying to develop a building material. We’re trying to develop a process solution, an integrated technology which goes right from CO2 to a finished product.
“There is a scale challenge, because rather than print something that’s five centimetres long, we want to be able to print a beam that’s five metres long. The size scalability is a really important part.”
The writer of the article also spoke to J.R. DeShazo, professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs who highlighted the importance of the discovery. He believes the technology could have profound implications for the carbon footprint and infrastructure creation of industrialising countries, particularly when we consider the extent of the energy and concrete the economic development process uses up.
He went on to detail:
“This technology could change the economic incentives associated with these power plants in their operations and turn the smokestack flue gas into a resource countries can use, to build up their cities, extend their road systems,” DeShazo said. “It takes what was a problem and turns it into a benefit in products and services that are going to be very much needed and valued in places like India and China.”