UK’s Seratech unveils brick made with captured CO2

Seratech, a spinout from Imperial College London, has produced what it claims is a carbon-neutral brick manufactured using captured CO2 emissions.

Seratech CTO Barney Shanks examines one of his company's bricks
Seratech CTO Barney Shanks examines one of his company's bricks - AKT II

Using a proprietary carbon capture, mineralisation and utilisation (CCMU) process, Seratech has developed a magnesium carbonate material that it uses as a binder for its brick. Rather than being fired at 1200°C like conventional bricks, the prototypes were baked overnight at 60°C and then cured at room temperature for about two weeks.

This combination of energy saving and sequestered carbon makes the brick production carbon neutral, according to Seratech. By comparison, regular bricks have a substantial carbon footprint that can approach 1kg per unit.

“The impact of cement emissions has been well documented but less frequently discussed are the emissions associated with clay fired bricks of which millions are used in the UK every year – take a look at Battersea Power Station!” said Barney Shanks, co-founder and chief technical officer at Seratech.

The prototype is the result of 18 months of research backed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). Seratech collaborated with structural engineers AKT II, while materials specialists Local Works Studio experimented with different aggregate and additive combinations to improve the brick’s performance and circularity. Over the coming months, the prototypes will be thoroughly tested to verify their performance against building standards.

“It’s wonderful to be working towards something that will hopefully make a difference to carbon emissions in the long run,” said Caitlin Howe, Seratech’s technical director.

“Knowing there is scope for this product to change the entire industry is incredibly exciting and spurs you on. It really looks and feels like a conventional brick.”

To translate the concept into a commercially viable product, Seratech has teamed up with architects Carmody Groarke and awarded a Design Exchange Partnership grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

“We’re really excited for our practice to be working with material scientists who are operating at the top of their game and foster this collaborative process,” said Sian Ricketts, sustainability lead at Carmody Groarke. “As architects we see this as incredibly important.”