Watershed Materials, a California-based building materials technology startup, has developed technology to produce high-strength masonry with a low carbon footprint using natural mineral-based geopolymers.
The technology, funded by the National Science Foundation, allows for natural clays found readily all over the planet to be turned into reliable masonry products and offers a sustainable alternative to traditional concrete masonry, the company says. Recent test samples have achieved compressive strengths of 7,000psi — twice the strength of ordinary concrete — and have demonstrated resistance to water and chemical erosion.
Traditional concrete masonry has a high carbon footprint due to its reliance on Portland cement, a material responsible for 6 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Geopolymers are a new technology that provide an alternative to Portland cement used in concrete and masonry. Until now, geopolymers have mostly relied on fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal, or blast furnace slag, a byproduct of iron and steel production. These industrial waste products are available only adjacent to coal-fired power plants and steel production facilities, and the world does not produce enough to meet demand for concrete products.
In place of these materials, Watershed Materials’ technology activates globally abundant natural clay-based minerals to form strong geopolymer reactions.
Applications for Watershed Materials geopolymer technology include:
- Mass production of sustainable masonry made from locally sourced, often recycled mine and quarry waste.
- On-site local production of structural masonry from excavation or demolition materials.
- Disaster relief and remote production of reliable building materials from locally sourced abundant materials.
Researchers at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne are also testing a low-carbon cement that could reduce the carbon footprint of construction sites by 40 percent, Forbes reported last year.