Home » University spin-out develops carbon neutral brick prototype

University spin-out develops carbon neutral brick prototype

by Mark Cantrell
Seratech's Barney Shanks examines one of the carbon neutral bricks.

A climate tech start-up company claims to have produced its first carbon neutral brick.

Seratech, founded by a team of staff and researchers at Imperial College London, has spent 18 months developing its prototype brick, with funding provided by the Engineering & Physicals Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

The brick uses a magnesium carbonate binder that is produced via Seratech’s proprietary carbon capture, mineralisation and utilisation (CCMU) process, and allows CO2 emissions from industry flues to be permanently stored within the built environment.

Unlike conventional clay bricks, which require firing at over 1200 degrees Celsius and have close to 1kg of embodied CO2 per brick, Seratech claims its brick needs only to be baked at 60 degrees overnight before being left to cure at an ambient temperature for up to two weeks to gain full strength.

Barney Shanks, chief technical officer at Seratech, said: “The impact of cement emissions has been well documented but less frequently discussed are the emissions associated with clay fired bricks of which millions are used in the UK every year – take a look at Battersea Power Station.”

To translate the concept into a commercially viable product Seratech has teamed up with architects Carmody Groarke, and have been awarded a Design Exchange Partnership grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The team collaborated with structural engineers AKT II, and materials specialists Local Works Studio, to experiment with different aggregate and additive combinations to improve performance and circularity.

However, the brick’s binding agent – magnesium carbonate – is said to remain ‘the star of the show’; Seratech says this is what makes it a viable low carbon solution for the construction industry.

Over the coming months, the prototypes will be thoroughly tested to verify their performance against building standards.

Caitlin Howe, Seratech’s technical director, said: “It’s wonderful to be working towards something that will hopefully make a difference to carbon emissions in the long run. Knowing there is scope for this product to change the entire industry is incredibly exciting and spurs you on. It really looks and feels like a conventional brick,”

Sian Ricketts, sustainability lead at Carmody Groarke, said: “We’re really excited for our practice to be working with material scientists who are operating at the top of their game and foster this collaborative process. As architects we see this as incredibly important.”

Main image: Seratech’s Barney Shanks examines one of the carbon neutral bricks. Image credit: AKT II

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