Carbon Upcycling UCLA, a group from UCLA School of Engineering, has been recognised for its first-of-its-kind carbon capture technology which is supported by a $1.9m grant from the US Department of Energy.

The system developed by the researchers aims to decrease the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-burning power plant by turning waste gas into concrete-based building products.

The carbon-to-concrete technology captures the CO2 before it exits the power plant, reducing emissions to the atmosphere.

The technology also cuts down the use of traditional cement, the binding agent in concrete. The production of cement results in more than 8% of annual man-made CO2 emissions, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Carbon Upcycling UCLA plans to turn CO2 from flue gas into pre-fabricated concrete blocks called ‘CO2Concrete,’ a name that the team has trademarked.

“Our vision is that CO2Concrete will be at the centre of a much more sustainable and environmentally responsible construction ecosystem,” said Gaurav Sant, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Material Science and Engineering at UCLA Samueli.

“We think we have a revolutionary process and product. Not just because of our carbon utilisation technology, which alone is really exciting, but our end product appeals to both energy and building construction companies to enable them to meaningfully reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

According to Sant, the resulting product from the technology will have a carbon footprint at least 50% lower than current equivalent building materials.

February 2020 will see the team move into the Wyoming Integrated Test Centre to demonstrate its system at an industrial scale.

For the technology, the Carbon Upcycling UCLA team has been selected for the final round of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The competition will award two prices of $7.5m to the teams which demonstrate the most viable technology for turning CO2 emissions into valued products.

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