Local governments in the southwestern United States are putting up $150,000 for a pioneering effort to “turn air into concrete.” The money will help cover the cost of the “Reference Project”, a collaboration between two climate technology startups and a stone company in Flagstaff, Arizona.
The companies expect construction to begin later this year as the two startups install their technology in the block-lit facility. It works like this: Air Capture removes carbon from the air, and CarbonBuilt retrofits a block-light curing unit so the company uses CO2 to cure concrete with a low-carbon recipe. CarbonBuilt’s recipe uses less cement and combines industrial waste that can be turned into landfills, such as “fly ash,” the startup said.
“Essentially, with air capture, we use carbon dioxide to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then turn it into rock for permanent storage,” he said.
The $150,000 award comes from the 4 Corners Carbon Coalition, which takes its name from the American Southwest region and counts four municipalities as members — Salt Lake City, Utah; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Boulder, Colorado; and Flagstaff, Arizona. In a statement to TechCrunch, CarbonBuilt CEO Rahul Shendure called the funding a “great first step,” but said the companies involved will commit money and time to the project.
Carbonization is an important part of efforts to reduce the environmental impact of concrete. Concrete manufacturers are responsible for a total of 7% of industrial carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency, a group of governments, estimated in 2018.
In addition to installing solar arrays on the facility, Block-Light also produces tons of carbon dioxide through the traditional process of manufacturing and treating stone products. As part of the award, however, Block-Lite told TechCrunch that it will eventually begin selling “very low carbon blocks to customers in and around Flagstaff.”