In its drive to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of concrete, the five-year-old Global Cement and Concrete Association has issued its second Open Innovation Challenge, which matches start-up companies with cement and concrete producers to develop technologies and processes to reduce concrete’s greenhouse gas emissions. Start-up companies have until May 15 to submit applications, says GCCA. 

“We’re calling on the best and the brightest from around the world to join us in the urgent fight to limit global warming and help towards delivering the great prize of net zero concrete,” Thomas Guillot, GCCA’s chief executive, said in a release. “If you are a start-up from Austria to Australia, from Brazil to Bangladesh, with an innovative idea or technology, then we want to hear from you.”

The 2023 challenge is focusing on ways to the development of new materials and ingredients for low-carbon concrete. GCCA is seeking the development of methods to reduce the amount of clinker in cement production, for example. It is also interested in cutting-edge manufacturing processes that reduce emissions.

The 2023 challenge follows on the first challenge, launched in 2021, which focused on carbon capture. 

GCCA and its members account for 80% of global cement production capacity outside of China, as well as some key Chinese manufacturers, according to the group. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association is an affiliate member.

Member companies have committed to reducing and ultimately eliminating CO2 emissions in concrete, which still account for around 7% of global carbon emissions. Toward the goal, in 2021, GCCA issued a Concrete Future 2050 Net Zero Roadmap. Forty of the world’s leading cement and concrete manufacturers joined forces to accelerate the shift to greener concrete by pledging to cut CO2 emissions by a further 25% by 2030, working toward net-zero emission concrete by 2050, according to GCCA.

Its road map outlines the “levers, pathways and milestones” to help limit global warming to 1.5oC, says the group. 

Results of Last Challenge Show Promise

There were six projects in the first challenge. CarbonOrO specializes in lower-cost carbon capture technology using unique bi-phasic amine. Carbon Upcycling Technologies has a patented, low-energy process that chemically activates and captures CO2 within solid waste materials to produce a range of supplementary cementitious materials for low-carbon cement and concrete. Coomtech has developed a low-energy, low-cost drying technology using managed turbulent air, creating kinetic energy to remove moisture. A single Coomtech-enabled plant can cut CO2  emissions by the equivalent of more than 600,000 mature trees per year and is 75% cheaper to operate than standard plants, according to GCCA.

Fortera’s technology captures CO2 emissions from cement plants, combining it with calcium oxide to make reactive calcium carbonate. It is stable in dry powder form and its cementitious properties are activated when wetted. MOF Technologies has harnessed the high-capacity, selective nature of a new class of solid sorbents called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to engineer a filtration system to capture and remove CO2 from flue gas. according to GCCA. Nuada combines the properties of MOFs with mature vacuum swing technology to enable the separation of CO2 from flue gas using pressure rather than heat. This yields an ultra-energy efficient system that reduces the overall energy penalty associated with capture by up to 80%, says GCCA.

Carbon BioCapture’s patented technology for CO2 capture uses microalgae.  Their technology requires no pretreatment of industrial gases and does not use genetically modified strains of microalgae. Instead, it selects and adapts naturally occurring strains to maximize the capture of CO2 using photobioreactors, according to GCCA.

Companies accepted for this year’s Open Innovation Challenge will gain access to industry plants, labs, key networks and the expertise and infrastructure of GCCA’s 40 members. They will also receive guidance from the GCCA and its members to help with the development of new technology and business cases, according to Simon Thomson, GCCA’s head of media.