Imperial researcher wins award for concrete that captures carbon

Sep 19 2023

Barney Shanks, PhD researcher at Imperial College London, has won the 2023 Hawley Award for Net Zero Carbon Innovation for concrete that captures carbon.

The award, from the Worshipful Company of Engineers, is made for the most outstanding Engineering Innovation that delivers demonstrable benefit to the environment and will help to achieve Net Zero Carbon by at least 2050.

It recognises Barney’s achievement, with fellow researcher and co-founder Sam Draper, under the supervision of Professors Hong Wong and Chris Cheeseman, in developing a novel carbon capture technology that produces sustainable alternatives to concrete. The pair set up their company, Seratech, in 2021 to commercially market their products.

Concrete is the second most consumed resource, after water, and is used throughout the world for commercial, industrial and domestic construction projects. The binding ingredient in most concretes is Portland cement, which accounts for eight per cent of all global CO2 emissions, so developing sustainable alternatives is a real priority.

The award comes just months after the two researchers won £1m of government investment for their new technology, which employs Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) to transform naturally abundant magnesium silicate minerals, such as olivine, into a range of sustainable construction products.

Barney Shanks, from Imperial’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said: “Winning this award is a real honour for myself and the team behind the research, and recognises the potential of our project to make a huge contribution to reducing global carbon emissions. We’re very optimistic that Seratech products will be commercially available within the next few years.”

Principal Investigator on the project, Professor Cheeseman, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said: “I am delighted to see Barney receive this recognition for outstanding innovation. Combining the production of a cement replacement material with carbon capture is a really innovative approach. Concrete is one of the most commonly used building products, and 90 per cent of future production is forecast to occur in developing countries, so this technology has massive potential to decarbonise construction. Barney and Sam are great ambassadors of the innovation and enterprise that is core to our philosophy at Imperial."

Imperial College

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