Study reveals construction materials could capture CO2

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New research has revealed that the future production of construction materials such as cement, could help capture a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere

Construction materials such as cement have, for many years, contributed to climate change largely due to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in their production.

However, new research led by Dr Phil Renforth from the Research Centre for Carbon Solutions at Heriot-Watt University, has found this might not always be the case.

The study, funded by the Greenhouse Gas Removal Programme and published in Nature Communications today (28 March), shows the future production of these materials could, in fact, help capture a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Dr Phil Renforth said: “We found the forecasted global potential of these materials to capture carbon dioxide may be three to seven times greater than previous estimates based on current production.”

Entitled Greenhouse Gas Removal in the Iron and Steel Industry, the study also reveals construction materials including cement as well as steel slag and lime, may be able to react and trap more CO2 than previously thought thanks to their alkaline content.

Traditionally, the potential for building materials to help combat climate change was considered to be relatively low given their intensive production process.

The research suggests that if, for example, industries were to cut emissions in this process by using renewable energy, the extra carbon dioxide reacted with alkaline minerals may be enough to make these companies carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

Dr Renforth added: “We found the forecasted global potential of these materials to capture carbon dioxide may be three to seven times greater than previous estimates based on current production.

“This will not be enough to make a drastic difference on current emissions but if industries combined this with an extensive reduction in emissions, it may be enough to tip the balance.”

The study suggests the storage potential of up to 7.5 billion tonnes per year of CO2 could be ‘hidden’ in existing industries but would only be realised if current emissions are drastically reduced.

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