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UCLA Working Toward Carbon Solution Win

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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A research team from University of California, Los Angeles, is reportedly still working on a concrete solution as part of a Carbon XPRIZE competition.

The competition’s winner is slated to be announced this fall and will receive $20 million to develop its product for the market.

Taking Aim at Carbon XPrize

The NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE is a global research competition that launched in 2015 with the goal to create products and breakthrough technologies out of carbon dioxide in order to help solve climate change.

Since the launch of the competition, more than 40 competitors from all over the world have submitted their version of a sustainable technology aimed to reduce carbon emissions. In August 2019, Carbon Upcycling UCLA—out of the school’s Samueli School of Engineering—was named as one of 10 finalists.

The team plans to turn carbon dioxide from flue gas into pre-fabricated concrete blocks called “CO2Concrete.” The team’s research is supported by a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and is reportedly working with Susteon, a sustainable technologies development company in North Carolina, to help transition their system up to an industrial level.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a material which has the potential to be able to completely remove that specific type of emission from the production of Portland cement,” said team lead Gaurav Sant, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and materials science and engineering at UCLA Samueli.

Thus far, Cronkite News reports that the team has reduced emissions in Portland cement by 75%. To achieve this, CO2Concrete uses calcium hydroxide, which in turn creates a cement material that reduces carbon dioxide emissions through the process of reabsorption.

The reabsorption method is described as when flue gas is collected from industrial plants where it is then put into a chamber where it can be cured inside concrete blocks, trapping the carbon inside. The end result product should land within the same price range as traditional Portland cement, according to Sant and the research team.

The UCLA team previously received $500,000 from the XPRIZE organization after reaching the finals in 2018, and a $1.5 million gift in 2017 from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation to support the project.

“We want to be developing technologies that have the ability to change how we live in this world and how we produce things in this world,” Sant concluded.

Other UCLA Research

Last spring, UCLA researchers developed a way to keep solar panels generating power through the winter months: a triboelectric nanogenerator that generates energy through the use of static electricity.

The device, known as a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or snow TENG, produces energy from exchanging electrons. The first incarnation of the device is inexpensive, thin, small and flexible like plastic, according to the university.

That summer, another research team received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop 3D-printed concrete that incorporates carbon dioxide as part of a binder.

Like the Carbon XPRIZE competition, the project explores new alternative cements that could cut into the process’s carbon emissions by incorporating carbon dioxide into the manufacturing process of concrete. The resulting product could have a carbon footprint of 60% less than current products, according to the research team’s estimates.

And earlier this month, materials scientist Ximin He, along with a research team and colleagues announced the development of an ice-prevention coating.

Inspired by how Antarctic species of fish create proteins to prevent their blood from freezing, scientists from UCLA looked at how the formation of ice could be prevented by focusing on three main properties of what causes ice to form and how those same molecular structures could be recreated.

According to UCLA, the coating set a record for lowest temperature reached while preventing ice formation. It wasn’t until tests pushed the coating to 31 degrees Celsius below zero (or -23.8 degrees Fahrenheit) that ice formed and remained on a surface’s profile. (Traditionally, water usually freezes at zero degrees Celsius).

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Carbon dioxide; Carbon footprint; Colleges and Universities; Competitions; concrete; Education; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Emissions; Green building; Latin America; North America; Quality Control; Research and development; Z-Continents

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