Low-CO2 Cement and Concrete

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Low-CO2 cement and concrete encompass a range of innovative materials and technologies designed to reduce the carbon footprint associated with traditional Portland cement production and concrete manufacturing. These alternatives aim to either replace or significantly reduce the use of clinker, the most carbon-intensive component of cement, while maintaining or even enhancing concrete’s performance characteristics.

Impact on climate action

The innovation of Low-CO2 Cement and Concrete significantly reduces carbon emissions in the construction sector. Its widespread adoption promotes sustainability by curbing greenhouse gas output during building processes. This shift towards low-carbon materials fosters a crucial step in mitigating climate change, aligning with global efforts for a greener future.


  • Alternative Clinker Production: Startups are exploring less carbon-intensive ways to manufacture clinker, including using alternative fuels and more efficient kilns.
  • Supplementary Cementitious Materials (SCMs): Fly ash, slag, and silica fume are industrial byproducts that can partially replace clinker in cement production, reducing its carbon footprint.
  • Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS): Capturing CO2 emissions from cement plants and utilizing them in concrete production or storing them underground.
  • Novel Binders and Concrete Mixes: Research focuses on developing alternative binders and concrete mixes that utilize less or no clinker, such as geopolymers, alkali-activated materials, and bio-based binders.

TRL : Varied, ranging from 4-5 (lab-scale testing and pilot projects) to 7-8 (demonstrated in operational environments and nearing commercial scale).

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Bio-based cement: Companies like Biomason are utilizing microorganisms to grow cement, mimicking natural processes like coral reef formation. This technique eliminates high-temperature kilns and potentially offers carbon-negative cement production.
  • CO2 mineralization: Startups like CarbonCure are injecting captured CO2 into concrete during mixing, permanently storing it as mineral carbonates. This process not only reduces emissions but also strengthens the concrete.
  • Geopolymer concrete: Geopolymers are inorganic polymers synthesized from aluminosilicate materials, eliminating the need for clinker. Companies like Zeobond are producing geopolymer concrete with comparable or superior performance to traditional concrete.
  • Recycled aggregates: Using recycled concrete or other waste materials as aggregates in concrete mixes reduces the demand for virgin materials and lowers the overall carbon footprint.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Alternative Clinker Manufacturing Methods
  • Utilization of Supplementary Cementitious Materials
  • Carbon Capture and Utilization Technologies
  • Development of Novel Binders
  • Exploration of Alternative Concrete Mixes
  • Microorganism-Mediated Cement Growth
  • CO2 Injection for Concrete Strengthening
  • Advancements in Geopolymer Technology
  • Aluminosilicate-Based Polymer Synthesis
  • Implementation of Recycled Aggregates
  • Sustainable Clinker Substitutes
  • Industrial Byproduct Utilization in Cement
  • Carbon-Negative Cement Production
  • CO2 Mineralization for Carbon Storage
  • High-Efficiency Kiln Technologies
  • Optimization of Clinker Production
  • Green Concrete Formulation Techniques
  • Carbon-Neutral Construction Materials
  • Life Cycle Assessment of Low-Carbon Materials

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • CarbonCure Technologies (Canada):
    • Technology Focus: CarbonCure specializes in carbon utilization technology for the concrete industry. Their technology involves injecting recycled carbon dioxide (CO2) into concrete during production, which not only reduces the carbon footprint of concrete but also enhances its strength.
    • Uniqueness: CarbonCure’s technology is unique in its ability to sequester CO2 emissions within the concrete itself, effectively turning a waste product into a valuable asset. This not only reduces the environmental impact of concrete production but also offers a competitive advantage in terms of performance.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include the construction industry, particularly builders, developers, and concrete producers looking to meet sustainability goals and comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
  • Solidia Technologies (USA):
    • Technology Focus: Solidia Technologies focuses on developing low-carbon cement and concrete solutions. Their technology involves using alternative binders and curing processes to reduce CO2 emissions during production while maintaining the performance and durability of concrete.
    • Uniqueness: Solidia’s approach stands out for its comprehensive system that not only addresses CO2 emissions during production but also offers a new method of concrete curing that reduces water usage and enhances material properties.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include concrete manufacturers, infrastructure developers, and construction companies seeking sustainable alternatives to traditional concrete that can be easily integrated into existing supply chains and construction practices.
  • Fortera (USA):
    • Technology Focus: Fortera focuses on developing advanced cement formulations that significantly reduce CO2 emissions compared to traditional Portland cement. Their technology involves utilizing novel materials and manufacturing processes to produce low-CO2 cement.
    • Uniqueness: Fortera’s technology is unique in its focus on optimizing the chemistry of cement production to minimize CO2 emissions without compromising performance or increasing costs. Their approach may involve using industrial byproducts or alternative raw materials to reduce the carbon intensity of cement.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include cement manufacturers, concrete producers, and construction companies looking to adopt more sustainable building materials and practices to reduce their environmental footprint and meet regulatory requirements.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are pioneering the development of low-carbon cement and concrete by exploring alternative materials and production processes. They are investigating novel additives and admixtures that can reduce the carbon footprint of cement without compromising performance.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s approach involves a combination of materials science, chemistry, and engineering to address the carbon emissions associated with traditional cement production. They are exploring innovative methods such as carbon capture and utilization (CCU) to sequester CO2 emissions from cement kilns and convert them into valuable products.
    • End-use Applications: The research at MIT has implications for sustainable construction practices, infrastructure development, and urban planning. Low-carbon cement and concrete can be used in a wide range of applications, including residential buildings, commercial structures, and transportation infrastructure, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
  • ETH Zurich:
    • Technology Enhancements: ETH Zurich is at the forefront of research on low-carbon construction materials, particularly focusing on the development of innovative cement formulations with reduced CO2 emissions. They are investigating alternative binders and curing techniques to enhance the sustainability of concrete production.
    • Uniqueness of Research: ETH Zurich’s research integrates principles of material science, chemistry, and environmental engineering to address the challenges associated with traditional cement production. They are exploring bio-based materials, geopolymers, and alkali-activated cements as viable alternatives to Portland cement.
    • End-use Applications: The research at ETH Zurich has applications in sustainable building construction, infrastructure rehabilitation, and disaster resilience. Low-CO2 cement and concrete developed at ETH Zurich can contribute to carbon-neutral urban development and the transition to a circular economy.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at UC Berkeley are exploring innovative technologies and strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of cement and concrete production. They are developing advanced materials, such as calcium carbonate-based cements and alkali-activated binders, that require lower energy inputs and emit less CO2 during manufacturing.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s research focuses on the intersection of materials science, sustainable engineering, and climate policy to promote the adoption of low-carbon construction materials. They are investigating the lifecycle environmental impacts of different cementitious materials and developing decision support tools for sustainable material selection.
    • End-use Applications: The research at UC Berkeley has implications for green building certification, infrastructure resilience, and urban sustainability planning. Low-CO2 cement and concrete developed at UC Berkeley can help meet carbon reduction targets, enhance building performance, and improve the resilience of communities to climate change impacts.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several low-CO2 cement and concrete technologies are already being commercially implemented. For example, CarbonCure’s CO2 mineralization technology is being used by over 400 concrete plants worldwide, and Solidia Technologies has partnered with major cement producers to scale up its CO2 curing process. This signifies a growing shift towards sustainable practices in the construction industry.