With the push for low-carbon and no-carbon emissions to reduce our impact on climate change, the construction industry is one of the biggest sectors for new technologies to combat this. The smelting of construction metals such as aluminium and steel or the manufacturing of concrete is highly energy intensive and thus results in large amounts of carbon emissions.

One means of mitigating the carbon emissions from these processes is to extend their lifecycle, making them last longer and thus reducing the need to make more of these materials. Self-healing concrete is one such methodology – whereby cracks generated during stresses and fatiguing of the concrete are filled and rectified as they are generated. Healing external cracks is a different process from internal fissures, where air and moisture to accelerate the gap filling is sometimes non-existent.

In addition to increasing the concrete lifecycle, the ability to incorporate plastic and rubber waste material as aggregate reinforcing fillers for concrete would dramatically increase the carbon storage footprint that concrete already possesses. The ability to increase the compatibility of these porous rubbers and plastics with cement would aid in concrete stability and potentially their load-bearing capabilities.

At SPARC, we’re investigating these technologies to increase the carbon sequestration capabilities of concrete building materials and their lifecycle extension. Rather than burying carbon dioxide in the ground for long-term storage, combining building materials with carbon capture and sequestration technology would reduce climate impacts whilst generating useful materials in the process.