Microsoft has proposed using earth, algae, and hemp to build data centers which store carbon. The proposal is intended to shift the focus of how companies analyze greenhouse gas emissions associated with their facilities in order to be more sustainable by utilizing these three resources.
Hempcrete is a sustainable building material made from hemp hurds. It has been proposed by Microsoft to use earth, algae, and hemp to build data centers which store carbon.
The paper examines traditional and emerging materials that could be used in building floors, structures, and cladding, and concludes that earthen slabs, concrete made with non-traditional cement, bricks, and panels made with purpose-grown algae or fiber, and structural tubes made from mycelium are the best six prospects (threads produced by fungi).
Create your own own data center.
The research concludes, “These materials merit reasonable excitement and are deserving of investment to facilitate and speed their prototyping, scaling, manufacturing, and commercial usage in the construction industry supply chain.” “In addition, embedded apprenticeships in research, design, and construction laboratories, at manufacturing sites, and with professional design companies provide chances for educational and training investment.”
The concrete industry is massive and well-established, and if it were a country, it would release more carbon than all except China and the United States. Concrete has a large carbon footprint because it is manufactured at high temperatures, requiring a lot of energy, and it requires chemical processes that produce CO2. Other materials have been used in the manufacturing of concrete as part of efforts to reduce its carbon impact.
CarbonCure, a startup that pumps CO2 into concrete while it cures, has received investments from Microsoft and Amazon, and Compass Datacenters has utilized CarbonCure concrete in several of its facilities. However, this method only compensates for around 5% of the emissions produced by a batch of concrete, therefore it can only be employed in a tiny percentage of the concrete produced.
The CLF document scours the literature for early-stage materials being researched in laboratories and businesses that can outperform this – and includes a pledge from Microsoft to assist in their development.
According to the introduction, “investing in a proof-of-concept plan to bring new carbon-storing technologies to market aligns with Microsoft’s environmental values and pledge to become carbon negative in current operations by 2030 and to remove from the environment all carbon emitted by the company historically by 2050.” “Microsoft’s objective is to speed the process internationally by creating emerging technologies for suppliers throughout the globe, in addition to investing in new carbon-storing technology.”
Microsoft says it will champion low-carbon public policy and support efforts to educate students to remove barriers to using these novel materials through a “Idea” program (Integrated Design, Engineering, and Architecture) delivered through colleges and Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund, according to the study.
A Microsoft-funded CLF research in 2020 looked at materials that are available to use today, such as lumber and bamboo. The present analysis examines what’s coming down the pipeline, determining which materials are accessible, how far along they are in development, where they might be utilized, and what hazards they pose. Here are a few of the front-runners.
Algae has a lot of promise, according to the analysis. According to the research, “these ‘living bricks’ are a concrete-like substitute that can be generated on demand” by growing algae in a combination of sand, saltwater, and cyanobacteria.
Alternatively, by-products of algae farmed for biofuel may be used to make “biochar,” a stable solid that can store CO2 for extended periods of time. Raw algae may also be incorporated into regular concrete to store carbon and make it carbon neutral.
Mycelium, or mushroom root structures, has a lot of promise. They can be produced from agricultural waste and have previously been utilized to replace petrochemicals in products like insulating foams. According to the paper, they might be created and shaped into tubes that could replace certain structural steel.
Our agriculture produces a lot of vegetable leftovers, which may be processed as “biomass” and burned for electricity, or integrated into building structures where the carbon is not released into the atmosphere. Straw, for example, could be used in bales or thatch panels, or nutshells could be included in concrete aggregate.
Bamboo, cork, and hemp may all be cultivated for structural purposes.
Hard-packed earth slabs, rather than the concrete slab floors often utilized in modern construction, might be employed. Despite decades of tradition, the paper claims that “very little research has been committed to the topic in a current setting.” “The idea of an earthen floor conjures up images of poverty and filth in the minds of individuals who are uninformed of contemporary advancements, hence it is often ignored. As a result, the creation of earthen floors has remained a niche market, one that has yet to be applied to modern structures or considered worthy of further research.”
To lower emissions, alkali-activated cements (AACs) employ slag or fly ash to replace part of the limestone used in regular Portland cement.
Building components may be built more readily using techniques like 3D printing, and the research proposes that a suitable area to test and refine these concepts is in the Edge (or what the document refers to as the Micro-Cloud), where tiny data centers can be swiftly assembled from manufactured components.
Prototypes and flagships are two categories of vehicles.
Prototypes and proof-of-concept projects should be put together swiftly in 2022, according to the report: “Once chosen for the FY 2022 engagement, each manufacturer would discuss their unique, realistic aims and expectations for prototyping with technology industry leaders based on what technology industry leaders perceive as the intended end-use application.”
The new materials will have to pass compliance and safety testing, which are difficult to speed up, before they can be widely used. However, the study argues for the use of novel materials in flagship projects, a strategy that has resulted in the adoption of several upgraded materials.
According to the paper, “past experience bringing cross-laminated timber and mass timber materials to market has proven that low-carbon and carbon-storing materials are viable and achieve parity with more traditional options in terms of cost, code compliance, and construction timelines.” “However, these materials have not gained mainstream status since they lack leverage on any of these fronts and need enormous expenditure to scale up manufacturing.”
Infrastructure firms pursuing net-zero ambitions may want to explore constructing a concrete-free data center.