Noxious fumes, polluted air and gasping people: this is the reality in many cities across the world. The World Health Organisation estimates 4.2 million deaths occur each year because of exposure to ambient (outdoor) pollution.
“Coughing, wheezing, eye irritation and a stuffy nose are immediate effects of pollution, which takes a direct toll on our health and reduces the overall quality of life,” says Dr Sumit Sengupta, a pulmonologist from Kolkata. Heart attacks, respiratory diseases and some cancers, too, can be attributed to air pollution.
Climate change is evidently unfolding at a rapid pace and carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Rick Wayman, chief executive of California’s Foundation for Climate Restoration, says: “Even when we get to net-zero emissions, the level of existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will still be unsuitable for the flourishing of humanity. This is why we must develop and scale up processes to remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
Capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, then, is on the to-do list for many firms, which have started the sequestration and utilisation of carbon for other purposes in an attempt to reduce the effects of climate change. One such company is Carbon Craft Design.
The start-up from Goa comprises a team of architects, engineers and designers, who are passionate about building sustainable solutions and trying to solve the issue of air pollution through architectural intervention.
The company’s Carbon Tile is the world’s first tile manufactured using recycled carbon from recovered waste. Tiles are typically formed by burning cement kilns, but the Carbon Tile essentially converts polluted air into this most common of construction materials. Each tile is equivalent to cleaning 30,000 litres of air, says Tejas Sidnal, architect, biomimetic designer and founder of Carbon Craft Design.
The firm works in collaboration with Air Ink, a start-up from Boston, which processes air pollutants into soot. Carbon is taken from the air through a proprietary device that makes it into slurry and then compresses it to a tile. Other than carbon emissions, the tile is made up of marble chips and marble powder, as opposed to heavy toxic metals that are usually used for glazing during the manufacture of ceramic tiles.
Another reason why Carbon Craft decided to work with the cement tile, was to bring back the lost glory of the craft, which has taken a beating since machine-made tiles became easily available in most markets. The company employs craftsmen from across India, and incorporates their centuries-old techniques and creative designs into their manufacturing process.
The carbon itself is collected from tyre pyrolysis factories, and then processed in Morbi, Gujarat, in a three-step collect, process and build method, as opposed to the mining, blending, mixing, pressing, glazing and firing processes that ceramic tiles are put through.
Carbon Craft is looking to collaborate with businesses that have carbon residue and set up manufacturing plants within their premises to avoid travel.
Tiles aside, Carbon Craft is also on the lookout for alternate ways to upcycle carbon into other useful forms for the building industry. It’s a crucial task given that construction accounts for 40 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.
Carbon Tiles can be ordered via www.carboncraftdesign.com.