Algae-Based Cement - Zero-Carbon Building Material

Colorado-based Prometheus Materials (a Company founded by the University of Colorado) have come up with a zero-carbon alternative to traditional portland cement. The innovation used microalgae to produce algae-based cement, which is a sustainable and durable binding agent.

Prometheus Materials uses algae-based cement to make masonry block
Image Courtesy: Dezeen

Algae-based cement makes use of biological rather than chemical means to create a strong, durable binding agent for aggregate. It can offer an alternative to carbon-intensive portland cement. 

Production of Prometheus Algae-Based Cement

All the zero-carbon building materials of Prometheus Materials are manufactured using naturally occurring microalgae. The solution for this was developed under the Department of Defense grant by a team of scientists and engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The product is manufactured using a patent-pending photosynthetic biocementation process. Here, the microalgae are combined with water, sunlight, and CO2 to create bio-cement. The process is similar to how corals build reefs and oysters.

One of the key differences from traditional cement products according to Burnett is that Prometheus’ mixture doesn’t employ the typical chemical reaction(hydration reaction) that turns cement into concrete. Instead, the algae-based mixture undergoes a dehydration process, which causes it to bind.

Algae Used for Algae-Based Cement

The bio-cement was made from the biomineralizing cyanobacteria that are grown using sunlight, seawater, and carbon dioxide. 

Strength of Prometheus Algae-Based Cement

The cement blocks made of algae-based bio-cement meet the America Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. When mixed with aggregate, this bio-cement creates a zero-carbon building material with mechanical, physical, and thermal properties comparable or superior to portland cement-based concrete. 

As per the Prometheus Materials CEO Loren Burnett, to create a carbon-free building construction environment, it is not only necessary to decarbonize fossil fuels, but also to decarbonize building materials. An entirely new set of bio-building materials must be introduced for this.

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