Credit: Courtesy Blue World Crete
A Nontoxic Solution Geo-Blue Crete’s manufacturing process produces a smaller carbon footprint than Portland Cement.
Nine years ago, scientists at Blue World Crete in Florida were attempting to replicate human renal tissue through biomineralization. One day their equipment seized up, and the cause of that problem turned out to be protein extracted from algae, which had combined molecularly with the machinery and coagulated into a steely substance.
This accident inspired Blue World Crete to pursue a new line of inquiry into algae and mollusks for the purpose of isolating the protein enzyme that creates their shells, and then “mimicking” that process to develop a cement-like substance.
The company is now licensing its technology for that substance, called Geo-Blue Crete, which Blue World Crete touts as a lower-cost, environmentally safer alternative to Portland Cement.
“Our goal was not to reinvent the wheel, but to get the costs down,” says COO Art Galietti. The company has also developed a wood alternative using this same process.
Blue World Crete is among a growing group of enterprises whose research is informed by biomimicry, the development and engineering of efficient architectural designs based on patterns in nature and biological systems.
Journals and websites have reported on architects copying shell structures to create stronger, flexible bridges; and aping the condensation properties of animals and plants to design wind turbines that can generate 1,000 liters of water per day.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working on low-cost fuel cells via experiments with an imitation of the natural enzyme hydrogenase as a catalyst to produce hydrogen molecules quicker without sacrificing energy efficiency.
Biomimicry is “a return to God’s plan,” says Daniel Panitz, Blue World Crete’s CEO, who is also a Protestant minister. “We’re trying to recognize what exists. And what better ministry is there than cleaning up the Earth?”
His company’s process is simple: The algae protein—a polymer, Panitz is quick to point out—is liquefied and sprayed onto a mineral carrier to create a powder. Panitz says his lab can grow enough of this substance in one 500-gallon tank to produce powder mixture for 200,000 metric tons of cement per year.
Panitz and Galietti say Geo-Blue Crete is indistinguishable from Portland Cement in its compression, tensile strength, and curing qualities. It mixes with water and is bagged and distributed the same way.
But producing a ton of Portland Cement releases an estimated 1.25 tons of carbon dioxide into the air, whereas Geo-Blue Crete’s manufacturing process is nontoxic. Blue World Crete estimates its product could sell in some areas of the world for 15 percent to 20 percent less than White Portland Cement.