Biomimicry living concrete absorbs CO2

Published on December 24th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Living Concrete Created That Improves Buildings’ Thermal Comfort & Absorbs Atmospheric CO2

December 24th, 2012 by  

A new type of biological concrete has been created that encourages the natural and rapid growth of pigmented organisms in the concrete. The material was designed with the idea of being used as a façade for buildings located in Mediterranean-like climates, offering great advantages in thermal comfort and helping to reduce atmospheric CO2. The material could, of course, be very useful for a wide range of other purposes also.

living concrete absorbs CO2

The prime innovation of this new concrete is that it works very well as a support for the naturally occurring “growth and development of certain biological organisms, to be specific, certain families of microalgae, fungi, lichens and mosses,” the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya notes in a press release about the concrete.

Currently the researchers are working to accelerate the natural colonization that occurs on the concrete by these organisms. Their goal is to have it set up so that the surface is very well covered in less than a year.

“A further aim is that the appearance of the façades constructed with the new material should evolve over time, showing changes of colour according to the time of year and the predominant families of organisms. On these kinds of buildings, other types of vegetation are prevented from appearing, lest their roots damage construction elements.”

The key qualities of the material are its specific pH, porosity, surface roughness, and it’s sandwich-like structure. The structure is composed of three layers: the first is a waterproofing layer, the second is the biological layer that allows water to accumulate in it, and the third is a ‘discontinuous coating layer’ with a reverse waterproofing function.

The new concrete material works well as an absorber of atmospheric CO2, and also at capturing solar heat and providing insulation.

The researchers think that the material could function very well fulfilling some of the same functions that vertical gardens and turf walls do.

Source: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)
Image Credit: UPC

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Hans

    Another non-critical copy and paste of a press-release with questionable claims.

    The algae and mosses will ofcourse absorb some CO2, however only for short while. After a first period there will be an equilibrium between CO2 release by rotting plants and CO2 absorption by the living plants. After the building has been torn down (nowadays mostly within a period of 50 years) all the plants will rot and all the CO2 is released back into the atmosphere.

    I suspect if you compare the amount of carbon (temporarily) stored with the amount of CO2 released by the production of the concrete the former will be negligible and it will be much more useful to use another material with less embedded energy.

    I suggest another title for the article:

    “Researchers greenwash concrete”.

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