CO2NCRETE – Researchers turn carbon dioxide into sustainable concrete

Sustainability Problem:

Over 30 billions tons of concrete are produced every year. Cement, main component of concrete, emits 0.8 tons of CO2 per ton of cement produced. This is about 7% of total global CO2 emissions. First source comes from CO2 released from limestone to produce lime. The second source is from lime and clay being heated to 1450 degrees celsius to make cement. UCLA research is trying to create a close loop process.


  • CO2 released from limestone to produce lime gets captured
  • CO2 is then separated from gas stream by membrane
  • CO2 is integrated into building material


  • Citizens
  • Government
  • Construction Companies

Steps to Deploy Technology:

  1. Develop scalable technique for 3D-printing
  2. Integrate all processes into a pilot facility
  3. Optimize process parameters





New technology removes air pollutants, may reduce energy use in animal agricultural facilities

Sustainability Problem:

The increase in pollution has increased the need to produce food to sustain this growth. Growing livestock produces high levels of ammonia concentration in the barns. This has a negative impact on the quality of the air in the vicinity of the farm.


  1. Ammonia polluted air enters the biofilter.
  2. There is also a heat exchanger that captures some of the heat and transfers it back into the barn along with fresh air.
  3. The prototype has been proven successful in a farm with 5,000 chickens.


  • Farmers
  • People living around farm land

Steps for deployment:

  • Start by deploying technology is farms with more than 5,000 chickens
  • Approach national brands, because they have resources to implement technology


Hand Tree: Personal air purifier

The problem

Global greenhouse gas emissions are leading the world to a temperature increase between 2ºC and 4ºC, which could cause an environmental collapse in our planet. Moreover, the air is being polluted by toxic emissions from cities and industries.

The technology

The Hand Tree is a wristband that offsets your carbon footprint. It purifies the air around you, turning CO2 equivalents, other pollutants and even dust into oxygen. In other words, this bracelet works like a plant in your arm.


The stakeholders

  • User
  • Environmentalists
  • Investors
  • Retailers


The Hand Tree was designed by Alexandr Kostin for the Electrolux Design Lab competition, were students were challenged to create a technology to address the issue of global pollution.


A Greener Cremation

Sustainability Problem

  • The environmental impact of a “full service” burial is significant; including the resources for the concrete vaults, steel and timber for caskets, and the annual use of over 800,000 gallons of carcinogenic formaldehyde in the US alone.
  • Cemeteries have very little space for native plant or animal life.
  • Cremation causes less environmental impact than burial, however the process releases an average of 532 pounds of CO2 per body and other toxic gases into the atmosphere.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 56 Million people die worldwide (2012).

Summary of the technology

  • The process of Alkaline Hydrolysis was patented by Amos Hebert Hobson in 1888, however it has only recently been used by the funeral industry.
  • The body is introduced into a pressurized steel chamber, where a solution of water, salt and potash creates an alkali solution to decompose the body organically. The solution is heated to 350 degrees and dissolves soft tissues in 2-3 hours.
  • Once the body has been decomposed, the sterile waste is safely disposed into the sewer system. The remaining skeleton is crushed into ash.
  • The process takes longer than flame-based cremation, however it uses less energy and emits no CO2.


  • Funeral home operators
  • Cemeteries
  • Producers of caskets, formaldehyde, and other funeral-related products
  • The environment
  • The bereaved


  • The cost of an alkaline hydrolysis unit is approximately $150,000, which is almost double the cost of an energy efficient flame-based cremation unit; costs are anticipated to come down with wider-scale implementation.
  • Depending on the funeral home the cost of the green alternative can run as high as 3 times a flame-based cremation, but it can be less expensive than full service burials.
  • This process is only legal in 13 US states and 3 Canadian provinces, however due to the environmental benefits other states, including New York and California, are considering legalizing it.


Reducing air pollution in Bangladesh

Sustainability Problem

  • Nearly 70% of people in cities are exposed to air pollution exceeding recommended levels; WHO counts 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in India and Asia.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7 million premature deaths are linked to air pollution.

Summary of “How better technology can make city air cleaner—and help save lives” by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg

  • Dhaka in Bangladesh has air pollution rates 13-16 times higher than the international quality standard during the dry season, making it one of the most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution prematurely kills approximately 14,000 people from Dhaka ever year.
  • The primary driver of air pollution is the city’s brick industry, which creates 4 billion bricks per year for construction.
  • The widespread use of fixed-chimney kilns, which are energy inefficient, highly polluting and are run on poor-quality coal, is exacerbating the air pollution issue.
  • Hybrid Hoffman kilns are very efficient, but prohibitively expensive to adopt. However a simple retrofit of existing fixed-chimney kilns is 40 times cheaper with similar benefits.
  • The retrofit creates a more efficient kiln by distributing the heat in a zigzag pattern. This not only improves the quality of the bricks, but reduces fuel usage by one-fifth, reduces waste, and simultaneously reduces air pollution by 40%.
  • More of the bricks produced in the “zigzag” kiln are of better quality and command a higher price in the market. This, combined with reduced energy costs, makes conversion attractive to kiln owners.


  • Health Services
  • The environment
  • The citizens of Dhaka
  • Kiln operators
  • Construction industry


  • It takes 3 months to retrofit a fixed-chimney kiln into a zigzag kiln and costs 4 million takas per kiln ($50K USD).
  • Kiln operators can realize their investment in less than 4 years. Spending money on outdoor air pollution through kiln improvements does 8 takas of good for every taka spent.


Smog Filtering Tower




Architect Dan Roosegaarde and nanoparticles expert Bob Ursem created a smog filter that uses ion technology to ingest dirty air,  filter it, and return clean air through vents. The filter is installed in a  7meter high steel tower that can be easily shipped. Initially installed in Rotterdam, expansion plans include Beijing, whose pollution inspired the product’s design. The filter has the capacity to clean 30,000 cubic meters of air in an hour. The air space roughly the size of a football stadium could be filtered in 1.5 days. The tower is also energy efficient running on 14,000 kilowatts of power. In Rotterdam, it is powered by wind and will potentially be powered by solar in other cities.

Sustainability Problem:

Air pollution causes nearly 3 million deaths per year and is expected to get worse, especially in developing countries, if steps to resolve are not addressed. The filtering towers will not solve the problem completely, but it is a good concept to increase awareness of air quality conditions and encourage wider air pollution reduction measures.


  • Governments in cities/countries with poor air quality
  • Citizens in cities/countries with poor air quality
  • NGOs
  • Scientists/Engineers
  • Architects/Urban Planners
  • Investors


  • Initial funds were raised on Kickstarter
  • Plan is to implement in public parks in Beijing with leasing options available to keep costs down
  • Potential expansion to other countries that face air quality concerns such as India
  • Public-Private Partnerships would be key in implementing on larger scale and to help cities with the costs

Other Sources:


1. Sustainability Problem

  • Humans produce 660 billion pounds of plastic a year, and the manufacturing process creates three times as much carbon dioxide by weight as actual plastic.
  • Plastic is mostly made of crude oil, which is collected mainly by fracking in the US. Fracking is associated with water pollution, earthquakes in non-sismic areas, and methane emissions.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. In 2014, CO2 accounted for about 80.9% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Issues: Air Pollution, Carbon Dioxide emissions, Petroleum consumption, Fracking


2. Technology 

Typically, plastic is made by exposing hydro­carbons from fossil fuels to tremendous pressure and energy. Newlight’s first commercial plant, in California, captures methane generated by a dairy farm’s waste lagoon and transports it to a bioreactor. There, enzymes combine the gas with air to form a polymer. The resulting plastic, called AirCarbon, performs identically to most oil-based plastics but costs less—creating a market-­driven solution to global warming.

AirCarbon is able to meet the performance requirements of a wide range of applications, including applications currently using fossil fuel-based polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS, polystyrene, and TPU. AirCarbon™ can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, fiber spinning, and injection molding applications. For more information about specific functional properties, please contact Newlight.

Companies have already signed on to use AirCarbon in their products, including KI desk chairs (pictured), Dell computer packaging, and Sprint smartphone cases.


3. Stakeholders

  • Newlight Technologies (owner of the technologies)
  • Companies making plastic-based products
  • Policy-makers to promote the use of AirCarbon
  • Environmental NGOs to require policy-makers to demand sustainable plastic production processes.


4. Implementation Process

Founded in 2003, after 10 years of research, Newlight has developed, patented, and commercialized the world’s first commercially-scaled carbon capture technology able to produce high-performance thermoplastics from air and methane emissions that can match the performance of oil-based plastics and out-compete on price.

The company has already won several sustainability awards, as well as attended many environment and sustainability summits in order to spread the word and raise awareness. The list is too large to appear in this text but can be found here:


5. Sources: