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The new plant transforms CO<sub>2</sub> from a gas into a solid that can be used to make construction materials such as cement bricks.
The new plant transforms CO2 from a gas into a solid that can be used to make construction materials such as cement bricks.

Breakthrough in ‘green’ building materials

Researchers are one step closer to “disposing” of captured CO2 in building materials after the activation of a carbon conversion plant.

Mineral Carbonation International (MCI) last month commenced operation of its carbon conversion reactor in New South Wales.

MCI is a joint venture between quarry explosives supplier Orica, the University of Newcastle and Canberra-based company GreenMag Group.

MCI’s carbon conversion reactor.
MCI’s carbon conversion reactor.

The $10 million “world first” research pilot project, which is located at the University of Newcastle’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources facility, is the culmination of nine years of research and development undertaken by the joint venture partners.

The plant uses the mineral carbonation process to transform captured CO2 emissions from a gas into a stable, solid form that can potentially be used in “green” construction materials such as cement and plasterboard.

“The mineral carbonation technology mimics and accelerates the Earth’s own carbon sink mechanism by combining CO2 with low-grade minerals to make inert carbonates and silica, which are similar to common chalks and sand,” MCI CEO Marcus St John Dawe explained.

Orica senior scientist Dr Geoff Brent said the technology was appealing due to the fact that it used a natural process. “These rocks [the low-grade minerals that react with the CO2] would be converted into carbonates under the influence of rainfall over millions of years,” he stated. “What we’re trying to do is speed this process up.”

The plant will test the mineral carbonation technology with the aim of developing a large-scale solution that can be implemented in Australia and across the world.

“If we had 50 mineral carbonation plants around the world, we could be securing over a billion tonnes of CO2 every year,” Brent stated.

Jez Smith, Orica’s acting group executive for strategic marketing and technology, added, “Mineral carbonation technology has the potential to help Orica and customers address issues associated with CO2-intensive operations, produce materials for use in the construction sector and open up new markets for the materials used to sequester the CO2.”


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