Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

This Indian Startup Turns Polluted Air Into Climate-Friendly Tiles

Business
This Indian Startup Turns Polluted Air Into Climate-Friendly Tiles
Indian startup Carbon Craft Design upcycles black carbon into stylish tiles. Carbon Craft Design

Indian startup Carbon Craft Design (CCD) launched with the goal of making construction more sustainable and tackling India's major air pollution problem. It does so by extracting black carbon from polluted air and upcycling it into strong and stylish carbon tiles.


Black carbon is a substance in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution that absorbs one million times more energy from the sun than carbon dioxide, making it a potent contributor to the climate crisis, CNN reported.

Black carbon also has dangerous health effects, having been linked to lung and heart disease in addition to impairing cognitive and immune functions, the article stated. Earlier this year, two separate studies found that air pollution shortens human life expectancy by three years and that there is "no safe level" of air pollution exposure, because even low levels of PM2.5 correlated with an increased risk of cardiac arrest. In 2020, air pollution was responsible for over 6.6 million deaths worldwide and was ruled, for the first time, as a partial cause of the asthma death of a nine-year-old London girl.

India is notorious for its polluted air. According to IQ Air, its cities often suffer from high levels of PM2.5, and 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities in 2019 were in the South Asian nation.

Building and construction are partly to blame. Traditional clay bricks are made by firing and heating them to roughly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which takes a lot of energy and produces air pollution byproduct waste. India is the world's second-largest brick producer, and brick kilns account for 20 percent of black carbon emissions globally, CNN reported. Conventional vitrified tiles (a low-porosity ceramic), also require a lot of energy to manufacture since they have to be burned, The Better India reported.

Architect Tejas Sidnal was shocked to discover how construction exacerbates his nation's environmental issues. In response, Sidnal founded CCD in 2019, and his new carbon tiles are reinventing how to build.

"That was a crazy eye opener," he told CNN. "As architects, we are responsible for so much air pollution. We can do better."

CCD Project Head Giriprashad K explained in a company video about carbon tiles, "The present-day production of construction materials is one of the largest single-source contributors of climate change. We wanted to see how to use this captured carbon [to produce] building materials. We came up with this idea that this carbon can be converted into this tile, and it is scalable."

CCD collaborated with Boston-based Graviky Labs to use pollution as a resource and create their signature product. Graviky captures and converts carbon soot from cars and factories into sustainable products, and uses a similar process to upcycle purified carbon into a powder pigment. CCD mixes this carbon pigment with cement and marble waste from quarries to produce handcrafted, monochromatic tiles, CNN reported.

The "craft" in the company name derives from the fact that the cement tiles are handmade by craftsmen using traditional, lower-carbon processes that have been used in India for more than 200 years, the video explained. Carbon tiles are made using a hydraulic press instead of being burned, requiring one-fifth of the energy to produce compared to vitrified tiles, The Better India reported. Carbon tiles come in six shades with 15 different designs, and can even be customized.

"By making carbon tile, we help [the craftsmen] thrive and empower the local community," Sidal said in the video.

Each new sustainable building tile contains at least 70 percent waste material and is the equivalent of cleaning 30,000 liters of air, the company website said. By CCD's math, "1 Carbon Tile = 1 Day of Clean Air" for a person. And while many companies are developing commercially viable ways to capture carbon dioxide emissions, few are focused on black carbon, Sidnal told CNN.

"We found a way to add value to this recovered carbon by using it as a pigment in carbon tiles," he said.

The tiles are also stronger than conventional cement tiles due to the higher carbon content, and Sidal and CCD's customers hope that recapturing pollutants like black carbon will slow the climate crisis and improve air quality, CNN reported.

"Anything that we build should be able to be reused or upcycled in some form or the other. That is why we feel that any resource is not a waste. And now we feel that air pollution is just a resource that is not harvested," Sidnal said in the CCD video.

Sidnal's ultimate vision is to construct a "carbon-conscious building" with each component derived from processing air pollutants, he told The Better India.

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
Trending
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less