Atmospheric carbon as a resource for building materials

© elegantembellishments

Image Atmospheric Carbon

[] © elegantembellishments

Working on our first product Prosolve 370e, a depolluting modular facade system, we were fascinated when we learnt that the photocatalytic process of breaking down air pollution produces calcium nitrate, a soil fertilizer. The facade was essentially harvesting small amounts of a usefull substance from the air.

Further research lead us to the work of Haber and Bosch on the synthetisation of nitrates from atmospheric nitrogen. At some point we also stumbled on an article on the discovery of pre-Columbian, man made, char in the Amazon river. Ancient peoples of the Amazon had stabilized carbon from plant matter through pyrolysis, the controlled burning of biomass without oxygen. Carbon dating of samples proved that carbon in this form was stable for possibly thousands of years, whereas trees planted to offset carbon decay within a few decades.

In the framework of Hybrid Plattform’s project “Decycling” we approached Prof. Dr. Arne Thomas (TU Berlin, Functional Materials) to develop initially a compound material and later on possibly a synthesized building material from atmospheric carbon. Such a product would dissolve the current conflict of limited resources and economic growth. Cities built from such a material would potentially store large amounts of atmospheric CO2 in the materials they were built with.

After some time in the Polymerlab of the TU Berlin, the first outcome of this research is a carbon negative facade panel, composed from 50 percent pure atmospheric carbon. It contains per ton of material 300 kg of atmospheric CO2, taking into account energy expenditures during manufacturing. We are proud to present first prototypes during a series of events during the Make City Festival.

As Germany's first Maker Library, elegant embellishments will be running a month of events throughout June 2015 as part of Berlin's Urban Architectural Festival Make City. Maker Libraries are creative spaces for making, showing and reading. They contain three key elements: a library, a makerspace and a gallery, connected via an online platform for sharing skills and resources.

The Maker Library Berlin program includes a series of nine events including exhibitions, talks and workshops. Among the speakers are Gilles Retsin, Miho Tanaka, Daniel Charny, Tim Edler of Realities:United and Oliver David Krieg. The program looks at makers in three themes: material science, maker-manufacturers, and vision makers. The material scientists are makers on a microscopic scale, manipulating invisible and sometimes molecular parameters that have profound impact on the way we build. Maker-manufacturers apply modularity-thinking to objects, and experiment and form according to the multiple or iterative production of a part. Making in a series implies parts of a greater whole, which can reach the scale of the city. Vision makers use speculative tools such as drawing, writing, or performing to construct and share ideas that move beyond the object. In architecture, a drawing translates thinking into material form. In augmented reality, a gesture initiates digital production. How we improve and share skills with these tools will influence not only how we make our physical environment, but how we generate our potential environment.

June 11–28, 2015. Events may be booked via Eventbrite (limited seating):

– Allison Dring, Daniel Schwaag (elegant embellishments)