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Startup develops innovative new method to make concrete: 'We need new approaches — new materials'

The technique, if adopted across the industry, could have a huge impact.

The technique, if adopted across the industry, could have a huge impact.

Photo Credit: Biozeroc

The creators of an innovation started in 2021 are continuing work to clean up concrete using, of all things, bacteria. 

Biozeroc's product  — a result of a collaboration of experts who met through the Cambridge-originated Carbon13 launchpad program — replaces dirty cement in concrete with microbes, according to a report, dating to around the project's inception, from the Concrete Centre. 

Concrete production generates 8% of global air pollution, most of it coming from cement. That's the part of the mix that binds it all together. 

"If you use microbes rather than cement to bind aggregate, that alone cuts concrete's carbon footprint by about 85%," Biozeroc co-founder Liv Andersson said in the Centre's story. 

The process works by ensuring the microbes have the right environment, and plenty of food, to produce calcite, which is needed as a binder. 

"Our process control has succeeded in greatly accelerating calcite production. This is where the gold in our technology lies," Andersson said in the lab report. The team looked to lyrics from a Daft Punk song, "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," as motivation, she added

Fast-forward a couple of years, and Biozeroc is now working with nanotech and biotech to make "the construction materials of tomorrow," according to the company's website. What's more, a press release from last year noted that the business landed funding and partnerships with concrete makers to "validate and commercialize" the concept. 

"We are looking forward to … [delivering] a nature-positive alternative to current construction methods," the United Kingdom's Maplex Technology co-founder Hannah O'Brien said in the press release. The company takes materials innovations to market, per its website. 

Bacteria are already being utilized for numerous planet-friendly projects, including eating plastic, chowing down on nuclear waste, and now helping to make cleaner cement. 

If Biozeroc's work in the latter arena can be utilized across the concrete industry, it could mean the elimination of nearly 10% of the planet's air pollution. The benefits are clear, including lowering the risk of severe weather that impacts even our food system. Furthermore, studies continue to find associations between dirty air and cancer, heart disease, and other ailments, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. So, a cleaner construction industry can have a healthy impact for us all. 

Miniscule microbes might just be part of the solution. 

"We need new approaches — new materials — if we are to go further and get to a zero-carbon construction industry," Andersson said in the Centre report. 

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