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Keeping you informed about the TecEco cement and kiln projects. Issue 42, 25th January 2005
John Harrison will appear on the first ABC Australia New Inventor's show of the year scheduled for 8.00 pm on Wednesday 9th February 2005.
After thoroughly confusing Auntie with tec, eco and enviro cements it was decided to keep the show simple and only talk about Eco-Cements.
Eco-cements are a blend of reactive magnesium oxide (reactive magnesia) with conventional hydraulic cements like Portland cement. They are of global importance because they set by absorbing CO2 out of the air and could potentially turn the problem of global warming around.
Whereas conventional cements like Portland cements are based on calcium, Eco-Cements are made by blending calcium and magnesium minerals. There are two main ingredients, a hydraulic cement such as Portland Cement and magnesia. Optionally a wide variety of wastes can also be used for their physical property rather than chemical composition solving recycling problems. As magnesium is the 8th most abundant element in the earths crust there are no supply issues.
John hopes to make his magnesium oxide using a kiln he has also invented which combines heating and grinding for efficiency, has no emissions and is powered by solar or waste energy. Magnesite, which is a compound of magnesium that is abundantly available in nature (and may also soon become available from power stations after it has been used to store CO2 from their smoke stacks) is heated in a kiln like John wants to make to around 650 deg. C to produce reactive magnesium oxide. Because John's kiln runs at low temperatures free energy such as from wind or solar cells or alternatively waste heat can be used. As a result less fossil fuels are burned. More importantly the CO2 driven off from the magnesite in the kiln is captured for alternative use or safe disposal.
The reactive magnesia powder from the kiln is blended with a pre-determined, but flexible amount of Portland cement and aggregates to make an Eco-Cement which in permeable materials absorbs CO2 forming stronger fibrous mineral carbonates that bond together aggregates many of which can be wastes.
Eco-cement can handle more industrial waste than other hydraulic cements because it is less alkaline minimising the solubility of heavy metals and because it does not react with wastes jeopardising the strength of the concrete. On the other hand Portland cement concretes can’t utilise huge amounts of waste because they are too alkaline and reactive leading to delayed and disruptive reactions.
Eco-Cements only carbonate in permeable materials such as concrete blocks, mortars, pervious pavement etc. in which it sets and hardens by absorbing the CO2 directly out of the air. The more magnesium oxide, the more CO2 is absorbed. The rate and amount of absorption depends on what stage of setting the concrete has reached. As an example typical concrete blocks are fully carbonated with a year or so.
The idea that we can use carbon to make our cities greener than the forests we replaced is exciting and given the amount of materials that go into building cities and all the associated infrastructure when enacted upon John's technology will go a long way towards solving our emissions and waste problems.
More information on TecEco and Eco-Cement can be found at the company web site at www.tececo.com.
For our friends in the media who want to publish something photographs are
available from Tony Brooks, the ABC publicist for the program. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Ph. 02 83333573 and Fx. 02 83333840
John is determined to show that people care about the environment by winning
the New Inventors peoples choice.
Following the show on Wednesday 9th February 2005, voting for peoples choice will be open from 8:30pm Wednesday 9th to 12:00pm on Saturday the 12th February . Don't miss your chance to give John a helping hand by voting by phone, fax, sms or on the net as below.
You can vote in a number of different ways
Fax number: (02) 8333 2651
SMS - 1999 2220 (Insert 2 and send. You must have the facility)
Phone - 1902 55 22 77 (Listen, then when asked press 2)
Maximum 55c Inc GST.
Or by going to the New Inventors web site at ABC New Inventors
More information on TecEco and Eco-Cement can be found at the company web site at www.tececo.com
On Monday the 10th January, 2005 the world's first Eco-Cement pervious pavement was poured in Windsor Park, Glenorchy, Tasmania, Australia with the kind permission of the Glenorchy City Council.
Porous pavement is a permeable pavement surface with a stone reservoir underneath. The reservoir temporarily stores surface runoff before infiltrating it into the subsoil or sub-surface drainage and in the process improves the water quality. Porous pavement is made without "fine" materials out of either no fines concrete or under asphalted gravel.
TecEco are very interested in pervious pavement for a many reasons. They allow the earth to breathe, take in water and be healthy. The stone and soil under them acts as a reservoir and cleans the water a little like the filter on a fish tank. They are safer to drive on as they do not develop "puddles", have a good surface to grip and importantly, in Australia, some parts of the US and many other places in the world subdivisions made with pervious pavement that also have street trees can be several degrees cooler than surrounding suburbs without.
There are many other good reasons why councils and road authorities should switch to pervious pavement. If you want to know more about pervious pavement go to TecEco newsletters 29 and 35. A good website about managing stormwater using pervious pavement is to be found at http://www.greenworks.tv/stormwater/porouspavement.htm
TecEco Eco-Cements will set in permeable pavement and with their use several environmental issues would be addressed at once including water quality, replenishment of aquifers, "hot city syndrome" atmospheric carbon reduction and waste.
TecEco's first practical test could be improved next time around as too much water was used tending to wash the paste off a mono sized aggregate. Next time we will make the paste a little stickier by adding fly ash and one or two other additives in small quantities as the aim is to emulate the manufacture of chocolate coated peanuts or raisins. (Yum!)
For the last several billion years nature has nurtured the planet evolving complex eco-systems (the biosphere) that conserve and recycle materials conserving energy in the process.
Much is to be learned from the study of mature climax eco-systems which demonstrate complex web-like integration conserving energy all of which is ultimately derived from the sun as it flows through the system and materials which are constantly recycled, the waste from one natural metabolism being the input of another.
Plants and animals live together in mutually interdependent ways that become
increasingly specialized developing mechanisms for regulation preventing overgrowth
or dominance. The wonder of nature is the complexity of this interdependence
and how extremely efficient it is at recycling the nutrients essential to life.
Occasional aberrations are triggered climatically, by fire, cataclysmic events or some other way. Species are wiped out (as were the dinosaurs) and new species or groups of species appear to take over. In the past however the biosphere has always come back into to a balance characterized by complexity and integration but this can take thousands and sometimes millions of years.
Along came humans. In the last hundred years or so and for the first time in
geological history we have become masters of the destiny of the rather unique
blue green planet we live on.
We are like no other cataclysmic event yet we are responsible for many of the changes affecting the geosphere-biosphere from salinity, de-afforestation and pollution to the global carbon dioxide balance.
Climate change is the most visible result - storms, droughts, floods and the like are rising in frequency and severity and the consensus is that we are to blame.
Our presence on the planet is non-climax and non sustainable. Like a new predator before which no living thing can stand we are taking over. This takeover is driven by our intelligence and arguably, cheap fossil fuel energy. Yet we are so ignorant that few understand the flows checks and balances vital to the maintenance of the biosphere as a whole. There will be a natural correction? Will it involve our own extinction? Should we wait to find out?
First the village smithy, then James Watt and the steam engine followed by oil, abundant energy and thousands if not millions of innovations later and we have a tiger by the tail called the techno-process. It is bigger than we are, more ubiquitous, far reaching and in its name some five or six hundred billion tonnes of matter are moved about the planet to create the twenty or thirty billion tonnes of new materials we actually use every year.
The tremendous appetite of the techno-process is irreversibly changing the planet. The earth that nurtures us has limits that we have now most certainly exceeded.
Economics could perhaps be defined as the set of common behaviours that string together our actions for survival. It is a mirror of how we behave particularly in relation to satisfying our basic needs. Economics is about the utilisation of scarce resources to satisfy our needs. Resources are supplied by the geosphere-biosphere one way or another and are not infinite. Needs change and the things we make out of materials wear out. Eventually everything is thrown away. All this activity has an impact on the planet and it seems vital earth systems are unable to cope and are rapidly going out of balance. It appears impossible for humans to correct the problem on such a large scale.
What options does that leave us? Kyoto is a symbolic start but that is all.
What does nature teach us?
Economics drives both the techno-process and nature – both are based on survival but there are some fundamental differences between our techno-process and natural systems. Nature uniquely embraces integration and balance, seen as desirable by economists but unfortunately missing from the techno-process. Economists should study ecology for a few clues about where we are going wrong.
The cataclysmic event in our evolution has been the development of machines energized by fossil fuels. The resulting techno-process is simple, linear, non-integrated and arguably non-climax. Linear systems cannot be balanced because they cannot possibly contribute as much as they take. Climax eco-systems in the biosphere are on the other hand are characterized by complex integration and balance.
Efficiency is important for profit which drives the allocation of resources.
Unfortunately we only seem to understand efficiency in a linear sense, not an
integrated one. The greatest proponent of efficiency, Henry Ford developed a
linear production line to which resources were delivered. There was no concern
for resource issues beyond the factory gate – that was somebody else’s problem
or nature would provide. Enterprise based efficiency espoused by Henry Ford
neglects the value of the natural capital or the planet as a whole.
Climax ecologies are characterized by extremely efficient systems in which all processes are integrated. For example a leaf is technically designed to minimize water loss and maximize photosynthetic production. When the leaf falls to the ground it is eaten by bugs, grubs and bacteria and eventually it provides nutrient for the trees above it in what is a highly efficient process that retains embodied energy from the sun and recycles materials indefinitely.
Liquid and gaseous fossil fuels are now running out and the techno-process cannot continue the way it has in the past. The planet is in crisis. It is time for change so the total throughput of energy and materials is much less. Can the intelligence of the computer chip provide the connections to close the loops in our linear techno-process, can we invent new materials that do not have such an impact on the planet. Can we live in harmony with the planet? These are the big questions.
The only driving force humans answer to on a large scale is economics, but like a mirror, economics is really only a measurable reflection of how we really are, how we think and act. Economics is the driver of the techno-process. Technology however defines what moves through it. In this simple understanding lies the clue. Maybe we can redefine materials so economics drives more sustainable processes? Can we re-invent our physical world? In my view we are going to have to if we want to survive.
Natural climax eco-systems involve conservation of energy and materials, integration and thus recycling and provide the example as to how this could be done. How can we mimic nature and yet still obey the rules of economics? Can we harness economic forces to bring about change in what is a liner, substantially un-integrated techno-process of take, manipulate use and waste and develop a more sustainable regional industrial ecology which conserves materials and energy in the system as a whole, to a desirable extent complements nature and is highly integrated with much more recycling and re-use.
What is most important? The need to change, the desire to do so or the means to do so. All are important. If a means could be provided that did not reduce our lifestyle we should be embracing it. As the inventor of Eco-Cements that utilize carbon as a component of building materials and a kiln technology to make Eco-Cement that captures CO2 and is driven by the sun and which are the nearest things to industrial photosynthesis. I have to tell you we are not.
Technology, which primitively used created the industrial revolution and the
linear techno-process can be turned to the greater cause of producing an industrial
ecology which is integrated and efficient and which has minimal impacts on the
planet. Technology is the means. The need is obvious. Linked with the will we
may yet reduce our footprint on the planet until it is hardly noticeable. As
part of this a paradigm shift in the technology underlying materials is required.