Investors Pushing Microalgae-Derived Binder to Market


Zero-carbon building materials company Prometheus Materials has recently announced in a press release that it successfully raised $8 million to decarbonize the building materials industry.

The Series A financing was led by European life sciences venture capital firm Sofinnova Partners, with participation by the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), GAF and The Autodesk Foundation.

“We’ve been impressed by the team’s ability to deliver a long-sought, sustainable, and highly effective replacement for traditional Portland cement, minus the carbon emissions,” said Joško Bobanovi, Partner at Sofinnova Partners, and a member of the Sofinnova Industrial Biotech team. “This solution demonstrates the power of biology to replace existing industrial processes with climate-friendly alternatives.”

Mark Kroese, General Manager, Sustainability Solutions at Microsoft, added, “As Microsoft grows, we continue to build new data centers and corporate campuses. Sustainable building materials, like the carbon negative solution from Prometheus Materials, will enable our data centers to actually sequester carbon.

“We are proud to be working with Prometheus on this pilot program for low carbon concrete, and to be investing in companies that accelerate building decarbonization through our Climate Innovation Fund.”

Decarbonized Building Materials

The venture capital funding will support the commercialization of precast elements and ready-mixed materials designed with a bio-cement similar to the binder coral and oysters use to form reefs and shells. To create the building materials, Prometheus will use naturally occurring microalgae combined with water, sunlight and CO2 in a photosynthetic biocementation process.

The process, which is currently patent pending, was developed by a University of Colorado Boulder engineer and scientist team operating under a Defense Department grant.

According to reports, when mixed with sand and gravel or stone, the bio-cement offers what Prometheus presents as a zero-carbon building product or material with mechanical, physical and thermal properties akin to Portland cement-based concrete.

“Coral reefs, shells, and even the limestone we use to produce cement today show us that nature has already figured out how to bind minerals together in a strong, clever, and efficient way,” said Dr. Wil Srubar III, Co-founder and Chief Technology Advisor at Prometheus Materials. “By working with nature to use existing microalgae to bind minerals and other materials together to create new types of sustainable building materials, we can eliminate most, if not all, of the carbon emissions associated with traditional concrete-based building materials.”

The zero-carbon masonry units will be manufactured at Prometheus’ facility in Longmont, Colorado.

This new material circumvents the carbon-intensive processes involved in the production and transportation of the 4 billion tons of portland cement made each year; processes that are responsible for 8% of the world’s total annual CO2emissions, according to a report from Chatham House. This, along with the product’s ability to sequester carbon during the production process, results in a reduction of approximately 90% of embodied carbon compared to existing Portland-cement-based products.

Once created, Prometheus reports that the products will be marketed to architects, engineers, property and facility developers, as well as others in the construction industry. Over the next two years, the company will utilize the Series A funding for the commercial production of other zero-carbon building products, including:

  • Precast biocomposite elements, a decarbonized alternative to traditional precast Portland cement-based roofing tiles, wall panels, sound barriers, and other concrete elements; and
  • Ready-mix biocomposite, a decarbonized alternative to traditional Portland cement-based ready-mix concrete.

All of the products are noted to be affordable, strong and durable.

According to a report from Chatham House, carbon-intensive processes involved in the production and transportation of the 4 billion tons of Portland cement made each year are responsible for 8% of the world’s total annual CO2 emissions.

“To prevent catastrophic climate change, we cannot simply replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy – we must also decarbonize the way we create building materials,” said Loren Burnett, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Prometheus Materials.

“By using biological rather than chemical means to create a strong, durable binding agent for aggregate, we can now offer a zero-carbon alternative to carbon-intensive Portland cement. Our bio-cement will transform architecture as we know it, by providing the construction industry with a new decarbonized building material that has environmental and mechanical properties that mirror or exceed the capabilities of concrete, wood, steel, and glass.”

Pilot programs using Prometheus masonry units are reportedly already underway.

Other Bio-Based Product Developments

In a press release issued earlier this year, coatings manufacturer Teknos announced that it was participating in a new research project to develop bio-based binders and coatings as sustainable alternatives for fossil-based materials.

“Sustainable binders and coatings are becoming more and more important. To combat climate change and resource scarcity, companies in all industries need to develop low-carbon, bio-based alternatives to fossil-based materials,” said Pasi Virtanen, Group R&D Manager, Innovations at Teknos, at the time.

“In the coatings industry, the availability and price of materials, as well as the high technical requirements, have limited the usage of bio-based solutions. Therefore, it is important to develop new alternatives.”

Originally formed by a consortium of Finnish companies and research institutes in the fall of 2021, the SUSBINCO project is working to develop novel and bio-based product portfolios for manufacturing and commercialization in global markets. That winter, Teknos announced that it would be participating in coating preparations, coating research, end-user and converter research.

For the project, the research collective is specifically looking to create binders and coatings that can be used in packaging, paints, adhesives, sealants and abrasives. For the new, ecofriendly products, binders and coatings, researchers hope to achieve between 80%-100% bio-based content.

The SUSBINCO project is expected to support Finland in becoming the development and market leader in bio-based solutions.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bio-based materials; Bioproducts; Building materials; Carbon dioxide; Carbon footprint; Cement; Colleges and Universities; concrete; Concrete masonry units (CMU); Design - Commercial; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Funding; Good Technical Practice; Latin America; Masonry; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Prometheus Materials; Research; Research and development; Z-Continents

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