Behind the Scenes at CarbonCure’s Research and Customer Labs

CarbonCure has two world-class laboratory teams: our Customer Lab team and our Research and Development team. 

While each team spends most of its time in the lab mixing and testing concrete and cement, each team’s end goal is a little different. In this short article, we’ll describe the roles of each team to offer exclusive insight into what they do to serve our customers.

Laboratory Operations Manager Caitlyn MacDonald collects cement for testing.
Research Assistant Co-Op Will Zimmer tests the surface resistivity of a concrete cylinder.

CarbonCure’s Customer Lab Team

The Customer Lab team at CarbonCure is devoted to ensuring our technology and customer materials are a perfect match. Before any equipment installation happens on a new customer site, the Customer Lab team evaluates the viability of the client’s materials and mix designs with CarbonCure's technology. 

The team consists of skilled professionals, including a lab technician, a concrete materials engineer, an engineer and lab manager, and a director, who collectively bring their expertise to the table.

With a testing capability of three sets of customer materials per week, the Customer Lab team uses state-of-the-art instruments to enable the production of precise lab concrete specimens and comprehensive assessments of various properties. 

The testing process covers a wide range of aspects, including fresh properties like slump, air content, unit weight, and temperature. Hardened properties, such as compressive strength, are also thoroughly examined to ensure the quality of the concrete.

In addition to these fundamental tests, the Customer Lab team examines other crucial factors like durability via electrical surface resistivity measurements. By employing techniques like isothermal calorimetry, they gain insights into the behavior of the concrete under specific conditions, providing valuable information for optimizing performance.

The Customer Lab team works closely with the Technical Services and Support (TSS) team to support new customers and provide support on the commissioning process, which typically takes around 11 weeks to complete. This timeframe showcases the meticulousness with which the Customer Lab team operates, leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to guarantee seamless integration and exceptional outcomes for every client.

The Customer Lab team at CarbonCure exemplifies the company's commitment to excellence. Through their rigorous testing, they ensure that customer materials are compatible with CarbonCure's technology, setting the stage for successful implementations and sustainable concrete solutions.

Customer Support Laboratory Manager Adam Meade leads testing in CarbonCure's Customer Lab.

CarbonCure’s Research and Development Team

CarbonCure's Research and Development team comprises a group of dedicated individuals who are constantly at work, researching and developing innovative solutions to reduce and remove CO2 from the built environment. The team not only pioneered the original technology for masonry but also won the prestigious Carbon XPRIZE  competition in 2021.

Based at the state-of-the-art research facility in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, the CarbonCure Research and Development team starts each day with a group meeting. This collaborative session allows them to align their efforts and outline their tasks for the day, which include making and testing concrete and cement.

The team makes a wide range of concrete mixes, many with CarbonCure’s ready mix technology added and some with CarbonCure’s reclaimed water or recycled concrete aggregate technologies added.

Once the concrete is ready, the team embarks on an extensive testing process. They evaluate its compressive strength, assess its workability through slump tests, and quantify the air content present. They also put samples within the isothermal calorimeter to track the hydration heat of the cement. The team then makes cylindrical specimens and pours the concrete into molds. Testing then begins on the hardened properties, primarily compressive strength.

Like the Customer Lab team, the Research and Development team works closely with CarbonCure’s Technical Services and Support (TSS) team to support existing customers in their ongoing use of CarbonCure. As part of TSS’s support offering, the team tests the cement of individual customers to understand its reactivity with CO2

Other techniques such as  X-ray diffraction (XRD) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) are also executed to examine the chemistry of the cement. CarbonCure’s lab is equipped with technology that can help mimic field-like environments by adapting things like temperatures. The CarbonCure Research and Development team plays a key role in supporting producers’ quality control teams by testing each of those ingredients alongside CarbonCure to ensure the best performance.

Director of Research Yogi Sargam reviews lab data.

The Science of Concrete

The CarbonCure lab is a hub of constant discovery and advancement in the realm of concrete. From the Research and Development team's dedicated efforts in developing and testing cutting-edge carbon removal technologies to the Customer Lab team's exploration of new materials, environments, and applications for our valued customers, there is no shortage of intriguing possibilities.

Research Assistant Co-Op Will Zimmer removes waste material from a concrete wash out.

Testing Concrete

Once the concrete mix is prepared, the team begins its rigorous testing processes, which include compressive strength tests, slump tests to understand its workability, air tests to find out the amount of air content.

Air Testing

Slump Testing

Lab technicians conduct an air test (left) and a slump test (right).

At the time the fresh concrete is made, the team puts a sample within the isothermal calorimeter to track the hydration heat of the cement samples. This is important in cement systems because it can provide indications of setting time and reaction.

Director of International Technical Services Alex Hanmore adds a sample to an isothermal calorimeter.

The team then makes cylindrical specimens and pours the concrete into molds. The next day, the concrete is de-molded and labeled for future reference. Testing then begins on the hardened properties, primarily compressive strength. Some are tested on the first day and some are stored for later testing on day 7 or 28.

Research Assistant Co-Op Abby Jonah tests the compressive strength of a concrete cylinder.

Cement Testing

The research team works closely with CarbonCure’s Technical Services and Support (TSS) team to support customers in their implementation and ongoing use of CarbonCure. As part of TSS’s support offering, the team tests the cement of individual customers to understand its reactivity with CO2.

The customer’s cement is mixed with water in a sealed container designed to withstand CO2 pressure. The researchers make CO2 dry ice or ‘snow’ using CarbonCure’s CO2 supply, and then mix it all together in the container until the CO2 is mineralized.

Sometimes, the researchers perform X-ray diffraction (XRD) on the cement ​​to quantify the composition of crystalline samples. XRD is done immediately and again after six hours, one day, three days, seven days, and 28 days to track changes.

Research Assistant Co-Op Alia Stanhope adds samples to CarbonCure's X-ray diffraction (XRD) machine.

The researchers also conduct thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) to examine the chemistry and content of the cement. Like XRD, TGA is done immediately and again after six hours, one day, three days, seven days, and 28 days. 

CarbonCure researchers use a thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) machine to examine the chemistry and content of cement.

Finally, the researchers test the reactivity with CO2 (i.e., how much it hydrates/heats) using the isothermal calorimeter. They add five doses of CO2 — 0.05%, 0.1%, 0.2%, 0.3%, 0.4% — and monitor the response of each sample. If they get an increased hydration response from the cement with each dose of CO2, it’s deemed reactive.

Typically, the more the reactive it is, the greater the strength benefits. To date, our lab has examined more than 140 different types of cement and learned a great deal about them along the way.

CarbonCure rsearchers collect, test and analyze cement samples from concrete producer customers around the world.

The Importance of Testing

Every concrete producer has different cement, aggregate, and admixture suppliers. CarbonCure’s Research team plays a key role in supporting producers’ quality control teams by testing each of those ingredients alongside CarbonCure to ensure the best performance.

Customer Support Laboratory Engineer Matthew Mason breaks a compressive strength specimen.

CarbonCure’s lab is equipped with technology that can help mimic field-like environments by adapting things like temperatures and humidity levels to ensure our lab testing is as close to real-life scenarios as possible.

Our teams at CarbonCure are committed to continual growth and learning, staying at the forefront of sustainable innovation in the construction industry. Joining our ranks means becoming part of a dynamic and enjoyable team that fosters collaboration and embraces exciting research opportunities.

If you share our passion for pushing the boundaries of what concrete can achieve, we invite you to explore the diverse range of career openings and co-op student placements available on our careers page. Join us on this fulfilling journey as we pave the way toward a greener, more sustainable future in construction.

Technical Reclaimed Water Manager Sebastian Munoz performs benchtop tests for CarbonCure's reclaimed water technology.

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