The Constructor

Carbon-Sucking Concrete to Fight Climate Change

ECM concrete

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The construction industry contributes to about 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and concrete being an indispensable part of construction, holds an 8% share in it.

Concrete is made using cement mixed with an aggregate - a grainy blend of materials such as stone and sand. After mixing, concrete is poured into a mold and left to harden. The hardened mix is then used for construction purposes. 

While this process doesn’t release any carbon dioxide, the problem lies in the process involving cement production, which releases huge amounts of CO2.

Many construction companies and suppliers are now using eco-friendly concrete substitutes to keep a check on the environmental impacts of concrete.

Recently, two researchers from the Massachusetts-based Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Suzanne Scarlata and Nima Rahbar, developed a concrete substitute that can remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The material called enzymatic construction material (ECM) is self-healing and can be used to patch existing concrete.

Researchers from WPI posing with ECM
Courtesy of WPI

ECM is composed of carbon anhydrase, an enzyme found in living cells. On reaction with carbon dioxide, it forms calcium carbonate crystals, the main component of ECM.

Other components of ECM are sand slurry and polymer, which act as binding agents. The final mixture is ECM which can remove CO2 from the air and store it within.

Pros of ECM:


ECM has already been licensed to Enzymatic Inc. for its production as a construction material. The researchers are working on increasing the strength of ECM and improving its resistance to water and humidity to make it more suitable for bigger projects.

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