Academic Minute Podcast

Greeshma Gadikota, Cornell University – Lowering the Carbon Footprint of Cement

Any way we can lower carbon footprints is worth pursuing.

Greeshma Gadikota, associate professor and Croll Sesquicentennial Fellow at Cornell University, looks into one.

Dr. Greeshma Gadikota is an Associate Professor and Croll Sesquicentennial Fellow in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a field appointment in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University. Dr. Gadikota directs the Sustainable Energy and Resource Recovery Group. She held postdoctoral research associate appointments at Princeton University and Columbia University, and a research associate appointment at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Her PhD in Chemical Engineering and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering and Operations Research are from Columbia University. Her BS in Chemical Engineering is from Michigan State University. She is a recipient of the DOE, NSF and ARO CAREER Awards, Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award, Cornell Engineering Research Excellence Award, and the Inaugural Cornell Rising Women Innovator Award to list a few.

Lowering the Carbon Footprint of Cement

Concrete is the second most widely used material on the planet after water. Cement production accounts for nearly 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. This challenge motivates transformative advances in lowering the carbon footprint of cement and concrete.

The two major contributors to CO2 emissions during cement production are the process of converting calcium carbonate to calcium oxide for cement production at temperatures in the range of 800 – 900C and the use of fossil energy to produce cement. Scalable decarbonization of cement and concrete can be realized using two approaches. The first approach involves capturing, converting, and storing CO2 emissions. The second approach involves innovative processes powered by renewable energy to produce cement and construction materials. As long as the cement industry continues to use calcium carbonate as a feedstock for producing cement, both approaches are needed to decarbonize the cement industry.

One of the less explored but highly transformative approaches involves capturing and converting CO2 emissions to produce carbonates that can be reused as additives in construction materials. Infact, the substitution of up to 15% of ordinary Portland cement with calcium carbonate was recently approved by ASTM. This now paves the way for innovative approaches to capture and convert CO2 emissions into carbonates using earth abundant silicates so these materials can be reused as additives in construction. This approach goes beyond conventional CO2 capture and geologic storage and helps close material cycles for producing sustainable and high strength construction materials.

From a process perspective, increasingly low cost renewable energy resources can be harnessed to produce cement. Solar-driven cement making is one example in this context. Another example is the use of electrochemical processes to produce the precursors needed for cement making. These technologies are still in the developmental stages but hold great potential for decarbonizing the cement and construction industry.

Read More:
[Cornell Chronicle] – Cornell to lead concrete decarbonization project

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