Meta has used AI to develop concrete that it says emits nearly half the carbon emissions of the regional average of the Chicago area.
Researchers at the company, which owns Facebook, recently set out to develop a less energy-intensive formula for the concrete it uses in its data centres, tapping machine learning to optimise for “sturdiness and sustainability”.
The company claims the project – a joint effort with a team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – has now yielded a concrete-making method that’s 40% less carbon-intensive than the regional average of the Chicago-area data centre where it’s been tested.
In a statement, the study’s authors said: “Using the input data on concrete formulas along with their corresponding compressive strength and carbon footprint, the Al model was able to generate a number of promising new concrete mixes that could meet our stated data center requirements with a lower embodied carbon impact than the industry standard.”
The researchers trained an AI model on a database of different concrete formulas and their corresponding carbon impact and strength.
The algorithm was able to create a list of formulas, from which the team chose five to test and refine in their lab.
The study authors then narrowed down the list to one final recipe, which made use of cement substitutes such as fly ash and slag to minimise carbon usage.
The researchers next tested the formula on a few noncritical structures at one of Meta’s data centres in DeKalb, Illinois.
Meta said the material was able to meet strength requirements and cut construction energy consumption by around 40% of the regional average.
Meta wants to reach net-zero emissions across its supply chain by 2030.
In a statement, Meta’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, said: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face.
“Delivering essential technologies and reliable climate information to billions of people is at the heart of how Meta can help address the crisis. And we believe we can do it with a net-zero carbon footprint.”
Meta says it is now tweaking the formula so the resulting concrete can achieve its full strength in a shorter time frame to account for its specific construction needs.
The company aims to bring the same AI approach to other aspects of infrastructure design and construction in the future.
The study’s authors wrote: “The resulting concrete mixes from our model can be used outside of data centre construction and there is an opportunity to further develop this model to address other use cases.
“Our exploration of innovative solutions to reduce data centre construction emissions is not limited to concrete.
“There are opportunities to reduce the emissions of other materials. We are also exploring innovative data centre designs as another way to improve sustainability.”
Image credit: Meta
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