Cement production, as important as it is to continued human development, has been getting a lot of heat due to its questionable sustainability. Fossil fuels are heavily used in cement production to bring limestone and clay to extremely high temperatures. The process is so carbon-intensive that cement production has become responsible for around eight percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
A US-based company, Prometheus Materials, hopes to give the cement industry a chance to stay relevant for the long run. Through the research of the University of Colroado, they developed an eco-friendly cement made from algae.
The process mimics the natural process in which hard coral reefs and seashells are formed. The company takes microalgae from lakes and ponds and grows them in bioreactors. They feed the algae with sea water, carbon dioxide through exposure to air, and light via LED lamps. The process allows algae to produce a cement-like substance which can bond with sand and gravel or stone to make concrete.
These algae-based cement will be commercially available by 2023. Their entry into the market is supported by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), a major player in the architecture world. This firm, which is credited for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and One World Trade Center in New York, helped to design the algae-based cement and partially funded Prometheus Materials.