<span class="vcard">alaurent</span>

MIT engineers create an energy-storing supercapacitor from ancient materials

Two of humanity’s most ubiquitous historical materials, cement and carbon black (which resembles very fine charcoal), may form the basis for a novel, low-cost energy storage system, according to a new study. The technology could facilitate the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and tidal power by allowing energy networks to remain stable despite fluctuations in renewable energy supply.

The two materials, the researchers found, can be combined with water to make a supercapacitor — an alternative to batteries — that could provide storage of electrical energy. As an example, the MIT researchers who developed the system say that their supercapacitor could eventually be incorporated into the concrete foundation of a house, where it could store a full day’s worth of energy while adding little (or no) to the cost of the foundation and still providing the needed structural strength. The researchers also envision a concrete roadway that could provide contactless recharging for electric cars as they travel over that road.

Read more in MIT News.

The Hill: EPA must prioritize life-cycle emissions in building materials policy

In order to prevent global temperatures from rising by two degrees Celsius this century, the United Nations estimates that annual global emissions must drop by 30 percent by the decade’s end.

Meeting this urgent goal will be difficult for all sectors, even those which have a clear path to decarbonization. For instance, we know that we must transition the electrical grid to low carbon sources, and we must also transition land-based transportation to electrical sources.

Op-ed by Randolph Kirchain and Hessam AzariJafari.

Read more in The Hill.

MIT CSHub hosts Concrete Delivery Professional workforce conference

On March 29th and 30th, 2023, we welcomed industry and academics to MIT to discuss the state of the professionals that keep the world moving: concrete delivery professionals (CDPs). During the workshop, the assembled experts identified innovative solutions to CDP recruitment and retention as well as the future of the profession.

We deeply appreciate the support of the Concrete Advancement Foundation — without them, this event wouldn’t have been possible.

Paper: Carbon-neutral pavements possible by 2050; rapid policy and industry action needed

In our new paper in the Springer Nature Group International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, Deputy Director Hessam AzariJafari, Director Randolph Kirchain, and Fengdi Guo modeled embodied impact of future pavements materials demand for the U.S. road network.

Lessons learned:
1) When currently scaled solutions are accelerated and adequate carbon capture technologies are available, carbon neutrality can be achieved by 2050.
2) GHG emissions from pavement construction materials are equally shared between local authorities, state DOTs, and the federal government.
3) Considering the performance limits, more than half of the material’s decarbonization way can be achieved without any innovative technologies.
4) Carbon capture and renewable energy sources are key enablers for achieving carbon neutrality. Without fully renewable energy sources, it is not possible to achieve carbon-neutral concrete and asphalt at the current efficiency level of carbon capture technologies.
5) Alternative concrete binders, mixtures optimization, and RAP are among the lowest-cost solutions for materials decarbonization.
6) In addition to construction materials, achieving carbon neutrality in the pavement life cycle requires more than just materials. A range of use-phase components, including albedo, pavement-vehicle interaction, carbon uptake, and end-of-life opportunities, can provide significant opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the life cycle of pavements. 

Read the paper.

Research Brief: Inequitable Cost Burden of Hurricane Repairs

Hurricane repairs disproportionately burden socially vulnerable communities according to new research by Ipek Bensu Manav, the first quantitative analysis of its kind. The research brief prompts stakeholders to distribute their mitigation grants carefully and invest in stronger construction to better protect vulnerable communities.

Read the brief.