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10 Futuristic Construction Technologies


1
Building With CO2
The hard shell of the abalone inspired MIT researchers to isolate the enzyme abalone use to mineralize C02 in order to build their shells. One day, we might be able to make carbon bricks from C02. Bill Brennan/Perspectives/Getty Images
The hard shell of the abalone inspired MIT researchers to isolate the enzyme abalone use to mineralize C02 in order to build their shells. One day, we might be able to make carbon bricks from C02. Bill Brennan/Perspectives/Getty Images

Carbon dioxide (CO2) spewed from power plants and automobiles is the single largest source of man-made greenhouse gas. Every year, we pump more than 30 billion metric tons (33 billion tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere where it speeds the damaging effects of global warming [source: Trafton]. While the energy sector experiments with trapping or "sequestering" CO2 emissions underground, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has successfully used genetically modified yeast to convert CO2 gas into solid, carbon-based building materials.

Like the Harvard termite team, the MIT researchers were also inspired by nature, this time the abalone. Like other crustaceans, abalone can convert ocean-borne CO2 and minerals into calcium carbonate to build their rock-hard shells. The researchers isolated the enzyme that abalone use to mineralize the CO2 and engineered a batch of yeast to produce it. A beaker full of genetically modified yeast can produce 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of solid carbonate from only 1 pound (0.5 kilograms) of C02 [source: Trafton]. Imagine how many carbon bricks they could make with 30 billion metric tons of CO2.

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