Big Things Happening in Finland: “Eco-Friendly Cement” Shaking Things Up for the Better

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Concrete is a major source of emissions, but Finnish firms and researchers are creating carbon-negative alternatives to flip it from a climate hazard to a positive solution.

Concrete plays a big role in planet-warming emissions. It’s the world’s most common synthetic material and most-consumed resource besides water.

Along with other environmental and health impacts, concrete generates as much as 8 percent of all CO2 emissions, mostly from its key ingredient, cement. Indeed, if the cement sector were a country, it would be the world’s third-biggest CO2 emitter.

An array of Finnish firms and researchers are working to turn concrete from a climate problem into a solution for carbon storage.

The market for such carbon-negative “green concrete” is set to grow rapidly, as it could be a crucial building block for lowering emissions. The Global Cement and Concrete Association, which includes the world’s biggest companies in the sector, has committed its members to being net zero by 2050, and laid out a detailed roadmap to do so.

Some of the technologies to reach that end are now being cooked up in Finnish labs in hopes of grabbing part of the market.

Active R&D

Concrete change for the better: “Green cement” is bubbling in Finland

“A lot of companies are taking this seriously and developing it forward,” says University of Oulu associate professor Juho Yliniemi about lower-carbon cement and related materials.Photo: University of Oulu

“There’s quite active R&D going on in green concrete and cement in Finland,” says Juho Yliniemi, associate professor of fibre and particle engineering at the University of Oulu. Besides his own institution, he points to work at Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology and Aalto University and about ten companies.

These include Carbonaide, which uses the concrete curing process to lock in carbon, in a process developed at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

“With our approach, we’re able to mineralise significant amounts of carbon dioxide into concrete as permanent storage in a very simple and cost-effective setup,” says Niina Haapasalo, Carbonaide’s chief technology officer. “Through the curing process, we can maximise the mineralised CO2 and minimise the amount of cement needed.”

She explains, “The two important targets have been a low threshold for industrial usability, and CO2 mineralisation amounts that are climate-significant. We found that concrete curing was just a perfect place, production-wise, to implement our process easily and impactfully at existing concrete plants.”

Construction materials as a carbon sink

Concrete change for the better: “Green cement” is bubbling in Finland

Carbonaide CEO Tapio Vehmas checks equipment at a plant in Hollola, southern Finland.Photo: Vesa Kippola/VTT

The company’s first carbonated products are slated for a spring 2024 launch by a partner, with delivery of full units beginning later in the year.

“Our goal is to create a more sustainable future with cutting-edge tech that doesn’t just reduce the carbon emissions of construction materials like concrete, but traps more CO2 than they emit throughout their lifetime,” says Carbonaide CEO Tapio Vehmas. “It’s very natural that the constructed environment becomes a CO2 sink, as it’s the largest volume of man-made material.”

The amount of carbon that the product sequesters can readily be verified through lab tests, generating data that partner companies can use in calculating their own climate footprints.

“The amount of carbonised CO2 is based on our process calculations, which are validated by lab measurements by a third party,” says Haapasalo. “On the commercial scale, all the mineralised CO2 is analysed in two ways, so it’s absolutely transparent.”

Helsinki demands low-carbon concrete

Concrete change for the better: “Green cement” is bubbling in Finland

It appears that product innovation and commercial demand have arrived in the same place at the same time.Photo: VTT

Verified data is essential for commercial adoption. For instance, in 2023, Helsinki began requiring that low-carbon concrete be used in all city-commissioned infrastructure projects, with a standard defined by the Concrete Association of Finland that will become stricter each year.

“Some big concrete companies are creating low-CO2 cement by mixing blast-furnace slag with their cement as their main supplementary cementitious material,” says Yliniemi.

Finland’s biggest concrete manufacturer, Parma, offers green concrete that promises to lower CO2 emissions by 40 percent, while its main rival, Rudus, claims that its version can cut emissions by as much as 60 percent compared to standard concrete.

Another big firm, Suutarinen, announced plans in early 2024 to build the country’s biggest concrete element factory in Mikkeli, with products made using the firm’s own low-carbon material.

Meanwhile, several smaller firms are using mineral sidestreams – typically waste materials – to craft cement-like binding agents known as geopolymers that have a smaller carbon footprint and can even perform better.

These firms include Betolar, founded in 2016, with former Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo serving as its advisor, and EcoUp, which upcycles waste mineral wool into a binder for geopolymer concrete. Another is Keko Geopolymeerit, which Yliniemi cofounded in 2020, focusing on alkali-activated materials.

“There seems to be a high push and pull in the construction industry,” says Yliniemi. “A lot of companies are taking this seriously and developing it forward, so it’s going to happen. It’s quite a conservative industry, though, so things always take more time than expected. But I’m optimistic at the moment.”

By Wif Stenger, April 2024

Source: finland.fi

13 Comments
  1. EmilySmith says

    It’s truly inspiring to see Finnish firms and researchers leading the way in creating carbon-negative alternatives for concrete. The transition from a climate hazard to a positive solution is crucial for reducing emissions and protecting the environment. I hope more countries and companies follow suit to make a concrete change for the better.

  2. Emily_1985 says

    Are there any specific examples of the carbon-negative “green concrete” being developed by Finnish firms? I’m curious to learn more about the innovative solutions in this field.

    1. MattHiker says

      Yes, Emily_1985, there are indeed specific examples of carbon-negative “green concrete” being developed in Finland. Finnish firms and researchers are actively working on innovative solutions to transform concrete into a carbon-storing material, leading the way in sustainable construction practices. Stay tuned for exciting developments in this field!

  3. Alice92 says

    As someone who cares about the environment, I’m thrilled to see such innovative solutions being developed in Finland to tackle the issue of emissions from concrete production. It’s inspiring to witness the transformation of concrete from a climate hazard to a sustainable solution. Kudos to the Finnish firms and researchers for their efforts in paving the way towards a greener future!

  4. Emily_Writes says

    It’s truly impressive to see Finnish firms and researchers leading the way in creating carbon-negative alternatives for concrete. By developing “green cement,” they are not just addressing climate concerns but also paving the path for a more sustainable future. The commitment to be net zero by 2050 by the Global Cement and Concrete Association is encouraging, and I look forward to the innovative solutions that will come out of the active R&D in Finnish labs. Kudos to all involved!

  5. EllaSmith89 says

    It’s inspiring to see Finnish firms and researchers leading the way in developing carbon-negative alternatives to traditional cement. Their innovation not only addresses the pressing issue of emissions but also sets an example for other industries to follow suit. This shift towards “green concrete” is a significant step towards a more sustainable future.

  6. AliceGoesGreen says

    As an environmental enthusiast, I’m thrilled to see innovations like “green cement” emerging from Finland. It’s crucial to combat climate change by transforming traditional concrete into a carbon-negative solution. Kudos to the Finnish firms and researchers for paving the way towards a more sustainable future!

  7. EmmaJones says

    As a sustainability advocate, I am thrilled to see Finnish firms and researchers leading the charge in developing carbon-negative alternatives to traditional cement. It’s high time we turn concrete from a climate hazard into a solution for carbon storage. Kudos to those actively working towards a greener future!

  8. JennaSmith94 says

    It’s truly inspiring to see the innovative work happening in Finland to transform concrete from a climate hazard to a carbon-negative solution. The commitment to green concrete and net zero emissions by 2050 is a crucial step towards a more sustainable future. Kudos to the Finnish firms and researchers for leading the way in eco-friendly construction materials!

  9. EmilySays says

    As an environmental advocate, I am thrilled to see Finnish firms and researchers leading the way in developing eco-friendly cement alternatives. It’s crucial to shift towards carbon-negative solutions like green concrete to combat emissions and climate change effectively.

  10. EmmaSmith21 says

    Could you provide more information on the specific carbon-negative alternatives being developed in Finland to replace traditional cement?

    1. MaxJohnson92 says

      Hi EmmaSmith21, in Finland, firms and researchers are exploring various innovative carbon-negative alternatives such as using industrial by-products like steel slag or fly ash to replace a portion of traditional cement. These alternative materials help reduce overall carbon emissions in the production process of concrete. Exciting developments are underway, with a focus on sustainability in the construction industry.

  11. Sophia92 says

    Are there any specific examples of how Finnish firms are producing carbon-negative alternatives to cement? I’m curious to learn more about the innovative solutions mentioned in the article.

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