Carbicrete co-founders Mehrdad Mahoutian and Chris Stern (Photo: Owen Egan)


A cheaper, greener way to make concrete

The McGill alumni behind Carbicrete believe they have developed a much more eco-friendly process for producing concrete. Their methods have them in the running for a $7.5 million international prize.

Story by Brenda Branswell

January 2018

A team of McGill graduates vying for a $7.5 million grand prize in a global competition will learn in February if they’ve made it to the final round.

If they scale that hurdle, the Montreal-based Carbicrete team will be in the homestretch, so to speak, of the 54-month NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. Winners will be announced in March 2020.Teams compete to develop breakthrough technologies that convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and oil and gas facilities into valuable products.

In Carbicrete’s case, that’s cement-free, carbon-negative concrete.

Cement production accounts for five per cent of global CO₂ emissions, notes team leader Mehrdad Mahoutian, PhD’14.Carbicrete’s concrete method uses steel slag, a by-product from steel factories that mostly ends up in landfill sites, says Mahoutian. Carbicrete’s process also involves injecting CO₂ into wet concrete, which strengthens it. By permanently sequestering the CO₂ in the concrete, the company says products made with its patented technology are carbon-negative.

“We’ve basically figured out that we can make concrete for a lower cost than regular concrete based on today’s pricing materials,” says co-founder Chris Stern, BEng’94. “And we believe that in the future there’s also added benefit from sequestering carbon dioxide, which will have a value.”

Yuri Mytko, BA’99, and Mario Venditti, BEng’93, MBA’07, round out the team.

Up to five teams will be picked for the final round from each of the two tracks in the competition sponsored by U.S. power company NRG and COSIA, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance.

While the competition goes on, Carbicrete is forging ahead as a business. Stern believes their approach is “game-changing” and Carbicrete will be delivering that message to concrete makers – its target market.

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