Concrete is a material that is treasured for its qualities as a building material but also criticized for its enormous carbon footprint. In order to continue to raise living standards in the face of climate change, however, the world relies on a sustainable way to use concrete.
PhD students at Imperial College London, Sam Draper and Barney Shanks, have discovered a simple way to eliminate the CO₂ footprint of concrete.
The technology, dubbed Seratech, captures industrial CO₂ emissions directly from flues and produces a carbon negative cement replacement material, a silica. When this silica is used in combination with Portland cement, the carbon capture associated with producing the silica means the concrete products can be zero carbon.
Although still at ‘lab level’, the strongpoint of the technology is that the raw materials used for Seratech’s products – waste CO2 and mineral olivine – are naturally abundant all over the globe and that the solution integrates into the existing processes and the equipment used in concrete production. As such, it can be easily implemented in every cement plant around the world and does not require major shifts in current practices or mindsets.
Seratech’s product thus has the potential to significantly reduce embodied emissions globally and to support future low-carbon construction.
On receiving the award, the founders of Seratech say:
“It is such an honour to receive the OBEL AWARD. This visibility will help us attract people in industry and scale our technology – and scale it rapidly. Humanity can’t afford to spend 20-50 years scaling the technology to give us sustainable materials. It needs to be now.”
– Sam Draper
“We want to highlight the importance of collaboration between academia, industry, and the work of architects. That’s why the OBEL AWARD is great because it’s essentially forcing this collaboration, making us take notice of each other, and getting that interdisciplinary work happening. I can’t wait to see some of the brilliant architects take this material and do some weird and wonderful things with it.”
– Barney Shanks
Excerpt from the jury motivation:
“The OBEL AWARD jury believe that it is necessary to encourage ambitious, cross-disciplinary ideas that do not just provide a temporary or a small-scale fix nor an unrealistic major shift in current practices. Hopefully, the 2022 OBEL AWARD can be an incentive for others as much as an encouragement to Seratech.”
The award ceremony will take place at the Utzon Centre in Aalborg, Denmark, on 25 October 2022. The winners receive a prize sum of EUR 100,000 and a unique work of art by artist Tomás Saraceno as a trophy.