🧽 A CO2 sponge for concrete
A South Florida startup is creating a formula to absorb CO2 using concrete, which can help the construction sector reach its net-zero goals.
Watch our latest On Site video feature with Carbon Limit here to learn more about their new technology to help attract CO2 like a magnet.
Join us on December 20th for a conversation with Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen on the future of Miami. Register here.
A 2022 report cautioned that with carbon emissions from buildings and construction at record high levels, the gap to reach global 2050 decarbonization goals has widened.
But the report also offered some hope and advised turning to “alternative materials and decarbonizing conventional materials such as cement.”
One South Florida-based climate tech company is focused on accomplishing just that.
“We create CO2 absorbing concrete and other similar technologies for construction,” explained Tim Sperry, founder of Carbon Limit, about the company’s CaptureCrete technology.
“We use special minerals from nature that actually give concrete the ability to attract CO2 like a magnet into the concrete and then permanently store it inside there,” he added. “So it's using what nature has provided for us to store CO2 into the concrete that we drive on in our roads, buildings, bridges, and our homes.”
Learn more about this CO2 magnet for concrete in our latest On Site video feature. Watch here.
BASED IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Carbon Limit was founded in 2021 and is based at Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway in Boca Raton. It participated in Tech Runway’s accelerator program and is an alumnus of Google’s climate change accelerator as well as Endeavour’s first cohort of climate tech companies.
Carbon Limit also completed a feasibility study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which turned into an ongoing tech grant from the Department of Defense. Also underway is a 3-year case study with the Minnesota Department of Transportation that includes testing and monitoring 35 pavement mixes of the CaptureCrete technology poured there in 2022.
By the time we met them at their testing lab and headquarters at FAU, they had signed a term sheet for $5 million in funding, which Sperry said they expected to close by the end of 2023. With this latest round of funding, the goal is to grow the team and expand into other countries.
“As we're looking to find these early adopters, we're now seeing them in our backyard,” Sperry noted of finding partners in the U.S. “And we want to support companies in Florida just the way those companies want to support startups and companies here in Florida, too.”
Uses being explored for this technology include concrete used in our roads, buildings, bridges, and homes.
TACKLING THE CO2 PROBLEM
The production of cement and concrete (cement being the main material in concrete) are some of the world’s largest emitters of carbon emissions, responsible for about eight percent of global carbon emissions globally.
Carbon Limit is looking to stop or reduce those emissions by tackling not only new construction but also what’s already in our environment by pulling the CO2 that’s already in the air into the concrete and storing it there.
“We're using the world's second most used material to capture CO2. It's just a no-brainer,” Sperry said.
Carbon Limit’s technology is a carbon-negative powder that can be added to concrete. The company licenses its formula to cement and concrete producers and manages the carbon credit generation process. “We're effectively generating carbon credits from mining CO2 from the air,” he added.
REACHING THE GIGATON SCALE
Sperry said they were looking to disrupt the industry when they first started. But less than a year into it, the Global Cement and Concrete Association had committed to reaching the gigaton scale of global emissions removal and reduction by 2050.
“There's so much CO2 going out today that if we don't create these large-scale solutions, we may not get there in time,” Sperry said.
Companies are looking for that big idea that can provide an environmental and economic incentive to impact the industry for generations. Between the recent COP28 conference and BIG 5 Pitch competition in Dubai, Carbon Limit was approached by major concrete manufacturers looking for a solution like CaptureCrete to meet their sustainability goals for 2030.
“That's really the beauty of our technology: it's a drop-in solution, easy to adopt, and doesn't create much of an extra cost,” Sperry said. “And with carbon credits that we've got validated for this technology, it can create a financial return so we can actually pay people to use it.”
THE PUSH THAT DROVE THE IDEA
Sperry first studied material science and chemistry before switching halfway through to business and pre-law at Barry University. He said he grew up always inventing things and knew he wanted to become an entrepreneur focused on protecting our climate.
For his first company, he spent countless hours researching different technologies focused on nature to create Smog Armor, an environmentally friendly paint. (Learn more about that company here.) Then came Carbon Limit, which started as a direct air capture shipping container that would capture CO2 through filters using their technology.
They decided to pivot at the end of 2021 while participating in the Techstars Accelerator program to pull their technology “out of the box” and turn it into what they have now: a cement material that could be added right into the concrete.
His drive for both companies is tackling air pollution.
“When I was younger, I lost two of my really close family members due to someone else polluting their air,” Sperry shared with us. “Ever since then, I've wanted to find a solution to air pollution so other people wouldn't suffer the same losses that I did.”
He said with Carbon Limit, the focus is developing and commercializing sustainable technologies for the built environment.
“The reason that we want to do that is because we want to help protect our families, our future generations, and we want to protect the environment,” he said.
“It's about making an impact.”
CONVERSATIONS ON OUR FUTURE
Join us for this month’s Opportunity Miami Conversations on our Future. We’ll sit down with Alberto Ibargüen, outgoing President of Knight Foundation and former Herald publisher, for a discussion about Miami’s future. It will be on December 20th at Beacon Council. Register here.
As the future-focused arm of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Opportunity Miami is a platform for people passionate about where Miami goes next. As always, we would love to hear from you.
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