This startup makes tiles out of air pollution!
Tiles

This startup makes tiles out of air pollution!

Air pollution has been a growing concern for decades, especially for the construction industry which contributes to 23 per cent of the world’s air pollution. While many solutions have been proposed to capture pollutants, the question of what to do with the resulting carbon waste has largely gone u...

Air pollution has been a growing concern for decades, especially for the construction industry which contributes to 23 per cent of the world’s air pollution. While many solutions have been proposed to capture pollutants, the question of what to do with the resulting carbon waste has largely gone unanswered. In this context, one startup has set its sights on the potential of carbon utilisation as a long-term vision. Mumbai-based CarbonCraft offers a unique solution, tiles made of repurposed carbon, to bring down the construction industry’s pollution woes. Tejas Sidnal, Founder, CarbonCraft, sheds light on the company and its approach in a virtual conversation. The inception Excited and passionate aboutenvironment conservation and the concept of biomimicry, Sidnal states that there has never been a fixed time that could be pinpointed as the conception of CarbonCraft. A former architect by profession, he says, “The idea was simple; can we build carbon-negative materials? By 2016, I had realised that carbon-negative buildings cannot be constructed without carbon-negative materials.” And so, the company operates on‘one golden rule.’ “If you cannot make a carbon-negative product, it’s not worth it,” Sidnal emphasises.What started off as bricks and eventually façade offerings morphed into tiles. The company offers two options: plain tiles and patterned tiles. Both are carbonnegative, storing more carbon than emitting it. Even the production is undertaken sustainably. Handcrafted from the get go at the company’s manufacturing facility in Morbi, the recovered carbon is initially processed to make it application oriented at its facility in Karnataka, and fused with a mixture of binder and natural materials like marble derivatives to craft carbon tiles. The journey Owing to the lack of research on the utilisation of carbon in building materials, much of it was done inhouse by the company. Material testing, strength analysis, water absorption tests and more were done inhouse in the initial days and then through third parties to ensure it was up to BIS standards. A clear challenge Sidnal and the team identified wasthe capture and collection of carbon. By focusing on only the utilisation of the carbon, the company was able to partner with other companies that specialise in carbon capturing, like tyre pyrolysis factories and others, to source recovered carbon. The material is then analysed and assigned further to develop higher-grade carbon upcycled tiles for businesses and end consumers. Currently, the tiles are made of powdered carbon. And as a next step, Sidnal reveals that they plan to utilise gaseous CO2.“We have partnered with IIT Madras and IIT Palakkad for this next phase to help us figure out how to capture CO2 from the air.” These steps have allowed the company to scale up in terms of quality. The demand CarbonCraft tiles only consume one-fifth of the energy compared to mass produced tiles. In terms of user benefits, Sidnal says, “Our tiles have similar properties to that of mosaic and terrazzo tiles. They help in thermo-regulation and have a cooling effect.” The company has seen the most demand from big corporations and builders. Notably, it has worked with Adidas, supplying tiles for eight of its stores. “We are in the process of working out a pilot with Tata,” he shares. “We also have vendor onboarding talks with ITC, L&T, Mahindra, and more. These big corporations will help us create a large-scale impact.” The plain tiles have drawn in the most customers for the company. Helping the industry achieve its agenda of net zero, CarbonCraft provides an EPD certification for LEEDthat has helped itsclients move a step closer to their sustainability goals and getting green certifications. Apart from these, the company is also registered with GRIHA and GreenPro with IGBC. The future Talking about the next steps for the company, Sidnal says, “We have received a lot of grants over the years from various organisations that have helped us with R&D. We are also building our own equipment to allow us to take our R&D to the next level.” CarbonCraft has recently received a grant from the Villgro Foundation and has worked on a pilot in Bengaluru to store CO2. The company has also been looking into fundraising in the near future to ramp up its production capabilities and set up a manufacturing unit to ensure economies of scale. That apart, it is experimenting with various thickness levels to bring down the cost of materials even more. Cautiously optimistic about growth, Sidnal says, “We don’t want to skip any steps. We want to move gradually from handmade, to semi-automated, to a fullyautomated process.” He touts carbon negative and net zero as the next big thing, and rightly so. “CarbonCraft will eventually be looking into different base materials as well. The industry will also catch up because it is the need of the hour. It is on the cusp of sustainable adoption and development.” - Sneha Iyer

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