Energy Department grants encourage construction that extracts CO2 from the air

Energy Department grants encourage construction that extracts CO2 from the air

The idea that buildings should be built with the aim of slowing climate change by making them carbon neutral is being superseded by the development of even more ambitious technologies that aim to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, making it carbon negative. CO2 is the main component of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming.

The Department of Energy is encouraging work in this field, announcing this week that it is funding 18 projects that will feature newly developed technologies that can convert buildings into carbon storage structures.

Ten universities and eight national labs and private companies were awarded $39 million to develop clean energy building materials that remove carbon from the atmosphere and demonstrate carbon-negative entire building projects.

The teams, led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and selected under the agency’s Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program, will prioritize overcoming the key obstacles faced by buildings that store carbon: scarcity, geographically limited costs and building materials.

The 10 universities that received the grants are employing different approaches to extracting CO2 from the air: Texas A&M University and the University of Pennsylvania will use 3D printing to their advantage, creating carbon-negative building designs with hempcrete – a lightweight material mixed with hemp plant core and the lime and carbon absorbing funicular floor systems, respectively. Other universities — Clemson University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among other organizations — are planning to create carbon-negative substitutes for wood, cement and insulation.

With projects like these, the program hopes to achieve its decarbonization goals by increasing the total amount of carbon stored in buildings, creating “carbon sinks” – which are places that absorb more carbon than they produce.

While it’s unclear how much carbon the new building materials will absorb, their plant mixtures are designed to employ direct air capture, sequestering CO2 from the air and storing it in their layers. For example, at the University of Colorado Boulder, the technology under development plans to produce biogenic limestone, which will use coccolithophores – or calcareous microalgae – to suck up and retain CO2 in mineral form through photosynthesis and calcification.

As it currently stands, many buildings around the world are the opposite of carbon sinks. They are “carbon sources”, meaning they release carbon into the atmosphere, effectively making the construction industry one of the notable producers of greenhouse gases.

Globally, this sector’s share of energy-related CO2 emissions compared to other sectors was 37% in 2020, according to the 2021 Global Status of Buildings and Construction Report published by the United Nations Environment Programme. In the United States, greenhouse gas emissions produced by the construction and construction, renovation and disposal sector represent 10% of total annual emissions.

“There is enormous and untapped potential in reimagining building materials and construction techniques as carbon sinks that sustain a cleaner atmosphere and advance President Biden’s national climate goals,” said US Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “This is a unique opportunity for researchers to advance clean energy materials to tackle one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize, accounting for about 10% of total annual emissions in the United States.”

The Department of Energy says that greenhouse gas emissions produced by materials currently used are “concentrated early in a building’s life”. This adds to the urgency of tackling national environmental challenges, as the latest report by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization shows that the concentration of three greenhouse gases in particular – carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and atmospheric methane – rose even higher in 2021 after hitting new highs in 2020.

The ARPA-E announcement is the agency’s latest move to reflect President Biden’s plan to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

Earlier this year, ARPA-E also awarded $5 million to fund the work of two universities – the University of Washington and the University of California, Davis – to design assessment tools and frameworks to transform buildings into storage structures for carbon.

HESTIA was created in 2021 to develop building materials and designs that specifically remove carbon during the construction production process and store it in the chemical structure of the finished product.

Sister helps blind brother down water slide

House January 6 committee to focus on alleged pressure campaign against Pence

Mikhail Baryshnikov: Putin “doesn’t care about people”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.