Bio-Based Materials for Carbon Sequestration

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Bio-based materials for carbon sequestration represent a compelling strategy for locking away atmospheric carbon within long-lasting products. This innovation leverages the natural ability of plants to absorb CO2 during their growth and transforms that biomass into durable materials for construction, manufacturing, and various applications. By substituting carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel with bio-based alternatives, we can reduce emissions associated with traditional production processes and create products that effectively store carbon for extended periods.

Impact on climate action

The innovation of Bio-Based Materials for Carbon Sequestration enhances climate action by utilizing natural materials to capture and store carbon dioxide, mitigating its release into the atmosphere. This sustainable approach fosters carbon neutrality, curbing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering a healthier environment for future generations.

Underlying
Technology

  • Sustainable Biomass Sourcing: Bio-based materials are derived from renewable plant sources, such as sustainably harvested timber, fast-growing bamboo, agricultural residues, and industrial hemp.
  • Carbon Storage in Durable Products: The carbon absorbed by plants during their growth is retained within the bio-based material, effectively sequestering it from the atmosphere for the product’s lifespan.
  • Reduced Embodied Carbon: Producing bio-based materials generally requires less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to conventional materials like steel or concrete, resulting in a lower carbon footprint.
  • Circular Economy Principles: Many bio-based materials are biodegradable or can be recycled at the end of their life, promoting a circular economy and reducing waste.

TRL : 6-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Engineered Wood Products: Cross-laminated timber (CLT), glulam beams, and other engineered wood products offer strength and durability comparable to steel and concrete, enabling the construction of taller and more sustainable buildings.
  • Bamboo Construction: Bamboo, a fast-growing and renewable resource, is gaining popularity as a sustainable building material for structures, flooring, and furniture.
  • Hempcrete: A bio-composite material made from hemp fibers and lime, hempcrete offers excellent insulation properties, breathability, and carbon sequestration benefits.
  • Bioplastics: Bioplastics, derived from plant-based sources such as corn starch or sugarcane, offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics.
  • Mushroom-Based Materials: Mycelium, the root-like structure of fungi, can be grown into various shapes and forms, creating sustainable packaging, insulation, and building materials.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Carbon Sequestration in Bio-based Building Materials
  • Engineered Wood Advancements
  • Bamboo as a Sustainable Building Material
  • Hempcrete Innovation
  • Mushroom-Based Material Applications
  • Carbon-Negative Construction Materials
  • Bio-Based Insulation Solutions
  • Carbon Sequestration in Furniture Design
  • Plant-Based Composite Materials
  • Carbon Capture in Bio-Based Polymers

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Stora Enso:
    • Technology Focus: Stora Enso is a leading provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden constructions, and paper. They might be using bio-based materials and sustainable forestry practices to develop products that contribute to carbon sequestration.
    • Uniqueness: Stora Enso’s uniqueness lies in its extensive experience in the forestry and renewable materials industry. They could leverage their expertise to create innovative solutions for carbon sequestration, possibly through sustainable forest management and the development of bio-based products.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include industries seeking sustainable packaging solutions, construction materials, and paper products. Additionally, they could cater to organizations looking to offset their carbon footprint through the use of renewable materials.
  • Bamboo Technologies:
    • Technology Focus: Bamboo Technologies likely specializes in harnessing the potential of bamboo as a sustainable material for carbon sequestration. They might be developing innovative products and construction techniques that utilize bamboo’s natural properties for carbon storage.
    • Uniqueness: Bamboo Technologies stands out for its focus on bamboo, which is known for its rapid growth and high carbon sequestration potential. They could offer unique solutions for carbon capture and storage, especially in industries like construction and manufacturing.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments could include industries looking for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional building materials, as well as organizations seeking to incorporate sustainable practices into their supply chains.
  • Ecovative Design:
    • Technology Focus: Ecovative Design specializes in using mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to create bio-based materials for various applications. They might be developing products that not only sequester carbon but also offer biodegradable alternatives to conventional materials.
    • Uniqueness: Ecovative Design’s uniqueness lies in its innovative use of mycelium as a sustainable material. By harnessing the natural growth properties of mushrooms, they could offer biodegradable and carbon-sequestering solutions for packaging, insulation, and other industries.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include industries seeking compostable packaging solutions, sustainable building materials, and biodegradable alternatives to plastics. Additionally, they could cater to organizations looking to reduce their environmental impact through the use of bio-based materials.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Yale are developing innovative bio-based materials specifically designed for carbon sequestration. This involves engineering materials with enhanced carbon capture and storage capabilities, such as biochar, activated carbon, and bio-based polymers tailored for carbon sequestration applications.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Yale’s research stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, integrating expertise from forestry, environmental science, and materials engineering. They are exploring the use of bio-based materials not only for carbon sequestration but also for enhancing soil fertility, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting sustainable land management practices.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials developed at Yale have diverse applications, including soil amendments for agriculture, restoration of degraded ecosystems, and carbon-negative building materials. By harnessing the power of nature-based solutions, these materials offer scalable and cost-effective strategies for mitigating climate change and promoting environmental sustainability.
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering:
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are pushing the boundaries of materials science to develop advanced bio-based materials capable of efficiently capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are exploring novel materials synthesis techniques, such as bio-inspired self-assembly and nanostructuring, to enhance the surface area and reactivity of bio-based carbon capture materials.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s research emphasizes the development of scalable and cost-effective carbon capture technologies based on bio-based materials. They are investigating the use of abundant and renewable feedstocks, such as biomass and agricultural waste, to produce carbon-negative materials with minimal environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials developed at MIT have applications in carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems, carbon-neutral energy production, and sustainable manufacturing processes. By sequestering carbon dioxide from industrial emissions and atmospheric sources, these materials contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change and transition towards a low-carbon economy.
  3. Wageningen University & Research’s Biobased Economy Group:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) are focusing on developing bio-based materials that not only sequester carbon but also have additional environmental benefits. They are exploring the use of bio-based materials in combination with sustainable land management practices to enhance carbon storage in terrestrial ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands, and agricultural soils.
    • Uniqueness of Research: WUR’s research integrates expertise in biobased economy, ecology, and climate science to develop holistic solutions for managing large carbon sinks. They are studying the interactions between bio-based materials, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning to maximize the effectiveness of carbon sequestration strategies while minimizing potential trade-offs and unintended consequences.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials and management practices developed at WUR have applications in sustainable forestry, agroforestry, and landscape restoration projects. By promoting the adoption of bio-based materials and sustainable land management practices, WUR’s research contributes to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and rural development goals on a global scale.

 

3.5

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

  • Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) in Construction: CLT is increasingly being used in large-scale construction projects, demonstrating the viability of engineered wood products as a sustainable alternative to steel and concrete.
  • Bamboo-Based Products: Bamboo is commercially available for a variety of applications, including flooring, furniture, and even bicycles, showcasing its versatility and sustainability.
  • Bio-Based Packaging: Companies are using bioplastics and other bio-based materials to create packaging for food, electronics, and other products, offering a more sustainable alternative to traditional packaging materials.