Images of climate innovation

Category: Sustainable world

Cementing our future

What's this about?

So maybe cement isn't the sexiest thing in the world, but it is vitally important. We use more of it than any other construction material and it is responsible for 8% of all human CO2 emissions that are over three times as much as air travel. At Imperial College London we are developing a solution.

A work hat with the word

More detail about the research

Everyone relies on concrete - of which cement is the most important and carbon-intensive component. Its low cost and easy supply make it the perfect material for building homes, cities, and infrastructure all over the world.

Not only is cement production very energy-intensive, but it also involves decomposing calcium carbonate which releases CO2, that was chemically bound, into the atmosphere. Because of this, the cement industry cannot simply be decarbonised by switching to renewable energy. To establish a net-zero cement industry without stopping construction we urgently need a new type of cement. To make this even more challenging, the raw materials need to be abundant enough to produce billions of tonnes of cement per year, all over the globe. Currently, waste and by-products from certain industries replace a part of the cement in concrete.

However, the potential to limit CO2 emissions via this route is limited, as is the supply of such materials. At Imperial College London, we have been developing new cementitious material. This material has been engineered in such a way that its production consumes CO2 and permanently sequesters it in the form of a stable mineral. Our material is made from one of the most abundant materials in the Earth's crust so it's easily scalable.

The simple production method also makes it economically viable and suitable for use in developing countries, where the vast majority of cement will be consumed in the coming years.

Entrant: Sam Draper , Imperial College London

Copyright: Sam Draper

Collaborators: Barney Shanks, Prof Chris Cheeseman, Dr Hong Wong (Imperial College London) and Dr Mike Cook (Imperial College London and Buro Happold).