Concrete is often quoted as the second most utilized material—second only to water—with 30 billion tons of it being produced each year globally. With such widespread use, the climate impact of concrete is enormous. Concrete accounts for about eight percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year, with the lion’s share (>95%) of these emissions stemming from cement production, concrete’s key input. If cement were ranked alongside individual countries, the industry would be the third largest GHG emitter, behind only the industrial giants of the United States and China.
If we’re going to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, the concrete industry will need a complete overhaul, including the widespread adoption of less carbon-intensive cement alternatives. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and Cement Sustainability Initiative estimate that cement production could increase by 25% by 2050. Yet, at the same time, we’ll need cement-related emissions to fall by 20% or more in the decade ahead.
In response, there have been several promising innovations emerging that address concrete production or utilization—with various approaches and business models. However, very few focus directly on the root cause of emissions: cement production itself. Solutions across the concrete industry that deliver near-term economics, safety, and performance for producers can shift the entire industry to make material decisions that value embodied carbon.
Why Prometheus Materials?
We are pleased to announce our investment in Prometheus Materials as part of our Energy & Materials portfolio. Prometheus is a Colorado-based early-stage sustainable building materials company that aims to replace Portland cement with an ultra-low-carbon bio-cement alternative. Inspired by nature, the company has developed a process that combines naturally occurring microalgae with sunlight, water, and ambient CO2 to create a bio-cement. When mixed with aggregate, this bio-cement forms a bio-concrete building material that offers the construction industry an economically viable alternative to carbon-intensive concrete products.
Developed out of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Living Materials Laboratory and funded by the Department of Defense, Prometheus’ novel innovation is its bio-cement and bio-concrete solution. Prometheus Materials’ team of scientists and engineers have discovered how to harness microalgae’s naturally occurring ability to create a bio-cement with a process that actually sequesters instead of emitting CO2. This rapid, scalable process enables the commercial production of bio-concrete building materials—materials that not only decarbonize construction but can also mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in buildings.
Our collaboration to transform the construction industry
Prometheus Materials’ solution sits on the ground floor of a potentially disruptive technology, innovating at one of the most significant root causes of man-made climate change. As the company scales its work, the Autodesk Foundation will tap into Autodesk resources and expertise within the larger AEC industry to amplify its growth.
“Our technology is revolutionizing the concrete and cement industry and allows a more holistic approach to sustainability without compromising quality,” said Loren Burnett, CEO and cofounder of Prometheus Materials. “Autodesk’s incredible, state-of-the-art resources and expertise will help us bring our bio-concrete blocks to market as we greatly reduce carbon in the built environment.”
As a member of Autodesk’s Technology Impact Program, Prometheus has access to software grants from Autodesk. Prometheus uses Fusion 360 to continue designing its technology solution for scale. The company also is connected to Autodesk’s Technology Centers Outsight Network, a global community of resident teams from industry, academia, and startups who collaborate to accelerate and research design and make processes.
The Autodesk Foundation looks forward to leveraging this collaboration to build the construction materials of the future.
Learn more about how Prometheus Materials is making concrete sustainable.