Annually, more than 80 million tons of portland cement are produced in the US and 2-4 billion metric tons are produced world-wide to meet demand. Cement is a key ingredient in concrete, which is used in a variety of applications, including infrastructure and buildings. It approximately consumes 5% of global industrial energy and contributes 5% of global CO2 emissions. Reimagining construction materials, including cement, represents a critical opportunity to reduce the energy use, production costs, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with construction of new infrastructure.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) will develop a scalable process for the production of large (up to 500 lb.) pre-cast blocks using lean-organic compacted hybrid (LOCH), a new type of infrastructural material which may compete with traditional portland cement. Portland cement is the most common cement type and one of the most versatile construction materials in the world. Its widespread use over the last century is due to its low cost, abundance of its ingredients including limestone and shales, and standard performance characteristics. However, the production of portland cement involves heating the raw materials to high temperatures, which is an energy intensive process. It also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions by producing nearly one ton of CO2 for every ton of cement. The UC San Diego team proposes LOCH as a cheaper, more durable, energy efficient alternative to portland cement. LOCH is not formed through hydration like traditional cement, but rather uses a polymer binder to bond raw sand or soil grains together. This method uses only the minimal amount of binder content, leading to low material costs. If implemented widely, LOCH could provide a drastic reduction in energy use and CO2 emissions as compared to portland cement, at a significant cost reduction. The 1-2 hour fast setting time of LOCH can simplify project management and further lower costs of construction logistics and labor. The construction procedure of LOCH does not require rebar, the steel mesh and bars used to reinforce traditional cement, eliminating their time consuming installation and repair operations. LOCH also promises increased strength, durability, and longer service life. Nearly 15% of portland cement is used for precast parts, standard cement parts pre-assembled offsite. The team will first target this precast market, as it provides the best opportunity to easily integrate and scale the new technology.