Satish Nune, a senior material scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), believes manufactured building materials and buildings can be the solution in mitigating the climate crisis.
U.S. buildings account for 35% of the U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. Since 2021, Nune and a team of PNNL researchers have been developing an advanced building material that can store CO2 and be economical. Their project, titled Integrated Capture and Conversion of CO2 into Materials, takes an abundant renewable polymer, called lignin, or an inexpensive coal, called lignite, and incorporates CO2, so it acts as a Velcro when mixed with plastic. This research creates a higher-value building material.
This project was the focus of Nune’s talk when he delivered the keynote for the Carbon Capture and Utilization track at the 2nd Annual Baker Hughes Energy Frontiers Summit in June.
“Versus net-zero emissions, we need to go after CO2 net-negative emissions,” he said. “In a perfect world for just decking materials, we are able to use our technology to store 250 metric tons per year. That is equal to the emissions from 54,000 cars per year that we can capture.”
He says the potential for their technology can be expanded to siding, fencing materials, and other manufacturing materials.
“Whatever we produce, we need to mitigate,” said Nune. “While others are working on expensive options, our technology is a much more affordable approach.”
David Heldebrant, chemist at PNNL and project lead, agrees the potential impact of the technology is substantial.
“Our research has shown that this technology provides a much-needed starting point for producing the first CO2-negative materials and establishing their associated markets,” said Heldebrant.
After Nune’s keynote, there was heightened interest from potential industry partners. He hopes that interest will soon turn into a commercialized product that will be used in both residential and commercial buildings in the coming years.