Transportation accounts for about a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – and about 72% of them come from road vehicles. Importantly, the focus of reducing those road-based emissions has been on electrifying vehicles, such as America’s most popular auto, the Ford F-150, whose Lightning version launched on April 26. Often overlooked are roads, which are ripe for change.
Hans Arne Floatoleft, and Haakon BrunelliFounder of Carbon Crusher. [Photo: Carbon Crusher]”There hasn’t been a lot of road innovation since the Roman era,” says Haakon Brunel, founder and COO of Carbon Crusher. world changing ideas podcast. The Norwegian company repairs roads using a carbon-negative method, when the old process is extremely carbon intensive; According to studies, building a mile-and-a-half of the road releases between 1,400 and 2,300 tons of CO2 even before any maintenance or rebuilding. This is partly because the road material is bonded together using bitumen, a sticky, dark substance that is a byproduct of crude oil.
[Photo: Carbon Crusher]The carbon crusher builds new roads as well as repairs old and damaged roads, and it uses lignin, an organic polymer found in trees that becomes a waste byproduct of paper production (and is often burned). is given, leading to higher emissions). This “green carbon binder,” as the company calls it, contains carbon from its natural life, and continues to separate the carbon in roads.
“All the carbon that trees suck up over a lifetime we are putting to good use in roads,” says Brunel, “the good and bad thing about our industry is that there are terrible roads everywhere.” There is a huge lack of road infrastructure globally.”
The company’s literal carbon crusher, an 8-ton metal robot perched atop a John Deere tractor, crushes roads, breaks them down into fine gravel and then binds the particles with lignin.
Crushing not only requires a new material, but it also makes the operation carbon-negative since lignin sequesters carbon. (The crusher vehicle is currently diesel, which Carbon Crusher plans to power with hydrogen or electricity in the near future.)
According to the company, its method reduces emissions by about 3.5 tons per 100 feet of road, compared to conventional methods. “At the core of our vision is to shift the planet from gray to green,” Brunel says.
[Image: Carbon Crusher]Carbon Crusher has already made a good start in its home country of Norway; In 2021, it reported $1.5 million in revenue from its work to stabilize 27 million square feet of roads, which it says removed 8,605 tons of carbon. There are plans to expand to other European countries, and even to move to the US, which offers plenty of opportunity with 6.6 million miles of roads in great need of repair.
“Infrastructure improvement is at the top of the agenda almost everywhere,” Brunel says.
Brunel is also optimistic that his company can provide a more affordable alternative to the budget crisis. In addition to its climate benefits, the process of carbon crushers is cheaper than conventional repair, can be used immediately after construction, and is often more durable, as lignin is less likely to crack.
“We hope there will be more [customers] Soon,” he says. “Because the planet needs it.”
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