Prometheus Materials is all set to decarbonise the construction industry by offering a zero-carbon alternative to the commonly used Portland cement. A leader in zero-carbon building materials, Prometheus Materials has developed a range of products manufactured using bio-cement created from naturally occurring microalgae.

“To prevent catastrophic climate change, we cannot simply replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy – we must also decarbonise the way we create building materials,” said Loren Burnett, co-founder, president and CEO of Prometheus Materials.

“By using biological rather than chemical means to create a strong, durable binding agent for aggregate, we can now offer a zero-carbon alternative to carbon-intensive Portland cement. Our bio-cement will transform architecture as we know it, by providing the construction industry with a new decarbonised building material that has environmental and mechanical properties that mirror or exceed the capabilities of concrete, wood, steel, and glass,” Burnett explained.

Prometheus Materials recently raised US $8 million through a Series A funding round led by Sofinnova Partners, with participation by the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), GAF, and The Autodesk Foundation.

Prometheus Materials will use the funding to commercially manufacture zero-carbon masonry units at its production facility in Longmont, Colorado. The products will be marketed to architects, engineers, property and facility developers, and others in the construction industry as an affordable, strong, and durable zero-carbon alternative to Portland cement-based concrete masonry units (commonly known as concrete blocks).

Over the next two years, Prometheus will use the funding to begin commercial production of other zero-carbon building products, including:

  • Precast bio-composite elements, a decarbonised alternative to traditional precast Portland cement-based roofing tiles, wall panels, sound barriers, and other concrete elements;
  • Ready-mix bio-composite, a decarbonised alternative to traditional Portland cement-based ready-mix concrete.

Developed under a US Department of Defense grant by a team of scientists and engineers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Prometheus Materials’ zero-carbon building products are manufactured using naturally occurring microalgae. The patent-pending photosynthetic biocementation process combines microalgae with water, sunlight, and CO2 to create a bio-cement similar to the material that coral uses to build reefs or oysters use to generate their shells.

When mixed with aggregate, this bio-cement creates a zero-carbon building material with mechanical, physical, and thermal properties comparable or superior to the carbon-intensive Portland cement-based concrete. The product’s ability to sequester carbon during the production process results in a reduction of approximately 90% of embodied carbon compared to existing Portland-cement based products.

“Coral reefs, shells, and even the limestone we use to produce cement today show us that nature has already figured out how to bind minerals together in a strong, clever, and efficient way,” says Dr Wil Srubar III, co-founder and chief technology advisor at Prometheus Materials.

“By working with nature to use existing microalgae to bind minerals and other materials together to create new types of sustainable building materials, we can eliminate most, if not all, of the carbon emissions associated with traditional concrete-based building materials.”