AI Paves a Smart Path for Carbon-Negative Reinforced Concrete

AI helps the construction industry get greener. Engineers are intelligently crafting carbon-negative concrete mixes with AI. Optimized concrete mixes can reduce CO2 emissions, as opposed to cement blocks that purely emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Here’s how innovators commercialize cleaner building processes and reduce their carbon footprint.

Article Key

Image credit: CarbiCrete

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a by-product in many industrial processes, such as the chemical reactions that occur when manufacturing cement or iron. The Center for International Climate Research reports that cement production causes 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative companies such as CarbiCrete and Meta aim to reduce the construction industry's carbon footprint by utilizing AI and data to replace cement blocks with carbon-negative alternatives.

Meta is extending its sustainability efforts by experimenting with ways to reduce its carbon footprint when building new data centers. Meta developed an AI model to make and test carbon negative concrete recipes. Some of the discoveries have the potential to reduce emissions up to 40 percent, however, it may cost construction teams longer cure times and overall speed. Optimizing the concrete recipes will help improve those ratios. 

To train its AI model, Meta researchers used the Concrete Compressive Strength Data Set, which lists properties of 1,000-plus concrete mixtures. The model compared all possible concrete mixtures to find examples that matched a minimum given strength—and low emissions.

By taking advantage of AI, Meta identified the five most promising mixtures using the input data on concrete formulas along with their corresponding compressive strength and carbon footprint. The AI model generated a number of promising new concrete mixes that could meet Meta’s data center requirements for a carbon impact lower than the industry standard. AI accelerated the discovery process and validated good formulas within weeks. 

While Meta AI researches and develops concrete for its data centers and other buildings, Montreal-based company CarbiCrete plans to commercialize its own carbon-negative solution that mixes carbon dioxide, concrete, and steel slag into a mold. The result? A cleaner cement-carbon precast that absorbs carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment.

Absorption chamber for CarbiCrete Co2 curing

Image credit: CarbiCrete

Benefits of CarbiCrete Production

CarbiCrete collaborated with NGen Technologies and Patio Drummond to create a platform that can intelligently optimize the production process of carbon-negative concrete building blocks or concrete masonry units (CMUs). Innovobot Labs will be building a software platform to collect data for production validation, tracking, analysis, and optimization.

Efficient production of CMUs like CarbiCrete’s new process can put a serious dent in gas emissions. Converse to the 2kgs of Co2 emitted from cement-based concrete, CarbiCrete’s carbon-concrete precast will actually absorb 3kgs of Co2 from the surrounding environment. At scale, a concrete production plant that creates 25,000 CarbiCrete CMUs per day could reduce emissions by 20,000 tons a year

Besides the carbon-negative benefit, manufacturers that switch to the CarbiCrete precast can also have:

  • 10 to 20 percent lower material costs;
  • 24 hours to reach full strength;
  • Up to 30 percent improved compressive strength;
  • 3kgs of CO2 removed per 1 CMU.

How the Process Works

Manufacturers can apply standard concrete making processes and equipment with CarbiCrete technology. There are only two major differences. When creating a cement-based CMU, the first move is to combine cement with aggregate and water. One difference is when CarbiCrete replaces cement with steel slag, manufacturers can still utilize standard equipment to mix it with other materials. Once mixed, it’s poured into a conventional block-making machine to create CMUs.

The curing process is where the second major change occurs. Curing CarbiCrete involves a specialized absorption chamber that also injects Co2 into the precast. The mix takes approximately 24 hours to reach complete strength.

CarbiCrete’s Next Steps

As of November 15, 2022, CarbiCrete rallied $5M USD in secure convertible note financing from BDC Capital’s budding Climate Tech Fund to advance production and optimization. Combined with advanced engineering capability, $23.5M in Series A financing, and $3.4M in Grant Funding from Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, NGen, CarbiCrete is paving a runway for sustainable product and business growth initiatives all over the world.

Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries.