Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Innovative Technologies – Calera:

Energy, Environment, Food and Healthcare are slowly becoming the defining challenges of our generation. Our present population is 6.8 bn and it was half this size when my dad went to college, now I am in college!!! UN projects 9 bn population in 20 years with more than 60 % of them in urban areas. All this will push our basic resources - energy, food, shelter, and healthcare. With status quo energy and food prices will reach disproportionate heights and will have a significant impact in our society and environment. But with technology and free market, may be it can be solved.

So this is the first in a multi-part blog on technologies and companies which can radically change our world. The first one is on Calera.


Calera is a company which wants to convert all the carbon dioxide emitted by thermal (coal- or gas-fired) power plants into cement or bricks. Further more they also want to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into cement. Too good to be true, isn’t it?

The technology in principle is very simple. It is just chemistry, specifically Catalysis. CaCO and MgCO3 (Calcium and Magesium Carbonate) is the biggest ingredient in the manufacture cement. So what Calera proposes to do is that, it plans to combine CO2 with seawater or any kind of hard (salt) water and produce lime stone in the presence of a catalyst (the catalyst is ofcourse a secret!). The salt water provides calcium and magnesium ions and this water get sprayed in carbon dioxide to naturally get converted into calcium and magnesium carbonate. This could be then used in a variety of ways. Either spray-dry into cement or use it as precursor material along with concrete aggregates for building walls or roads.

A pilot plant is up and running in Santa Cruz, California. The technology is in the developmental stage but the science behind it is very promising. It can potentially convert all (less profitable) thermal power plants into (highly profitable) cement factories and in the process also eliminate carbon emission.

P.S - Carbon Sequestration or the idea of storing carbon dioxide is not new but to make it as cement or brick and use it as a product is very innovative. Most of the proposed carbon sequestration technologies involve liquefying carbon dioxide and store it in depleted oil / natural gas wells.

Further Reading:


Jay Takle said...

Now isn't that a novel idea!!

Vishnuvardhanan Vijayakumar said...

I suppose yes... Hope they could optimize their science and launch it in a few years.