British engineers seem to have hit upon a new cement that can be a blessing to global warming by absorbing CO2.
According to a report in the Guardian, Nikolaos Vlasopoulos, chief scientist at London-based Novacem, made the invention.
The new environment friendly formulation means the cement industry could change from being a significant emitter to a significant absorber of CO2, said Vlasopoulos.
Making the 2 billion tonnes of cement used globally every year pumps out 5 percent of the world's CO2 emissions, which is more than the entire aviation industry.
In fact, the long-term trends are upwards. A recent report by the French bank Credit Agricole estimated that, by 2020, demand for cement will increase by 50 percent compared to today.
Making traditional cement results in greenhouse gas emissions from two sources: it requires intense heat, and so a lot of energy to heat up the ovens that cook the raw material, such as limestone. That then releases further CO2 as it burns.
But, until now, no one has found a large-scale way to tackle this fundamental problem.
Novacem's cement, based on magnesium silicates, not only requires much less heating, it also absorbs large amounts of CO2 as it hardens, making it carbon negative.
According to Novacem, its product can absorb, over its lifecycle, around 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of cement.
Novacem's cement, which has a patent pending on it, uses magnesium silicates that emit no CO2 when hearted. Its production process also runs at much lower temperatures, at around 650 degrees Celsius.
This leads to total CO2 emissions of up to 0.5 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of cement produced.
It has been estimated that the new cement has a vast potential market.
Set up by Vlasopoulos and his colleagues at Imperial College London, Novacem has already attracted the attention of major construction companies such as Rio Tinto Minerals, WSP Group and Laing O'Rourke, and investors including the Carbon Trust.
The company has just started a 1.5 million pounds project funded by the government-backed Technology Strategy Board to build a pilot plant.
If all goes well, Vlasopoulos expects to have Novacem products on the market within five years.