LONGMONT — Resulting from research carried out at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Prometheus Materials Inc. hopes to revolutionize construction.
“We’re on a mission to change the world,” Prometheus CEO Loren Burnett told BizWest. “I say that very sincerely. We are in the wonderful position of having technology that can bring a significant change to [carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions] worldwide.”
The Longmont Company, with a boost from the US Department of Defense, has developed a zero-carbon alternative to Portland cement, one of the most common building materials on Earth.
Prometheus building materials are constructed from microalgae combined with ingredients such as sunlight and seawater in a process called biomineralization to form a bioconcrete that shares attributes with seashells and coral reefs.
The federal government contracted four UC professors “to find a way to build protective structures to protect troops and aircraft in resource-poor environments” such as deserts, Burnett said.
After several years of proof of concept, it was clear that “the project was successful, and the DOD did indeed move [the company] from the research stage to the commercialization stage,” he said.
Recent studies show that cement production accounts for around 8% of global carbon emissions.
“Virtually every step in the production of cement – and therefore concrete – releases CO2 into the atmosphere,” Burnett said.
Cement producers must extract limestone; transport it to a factory; putting the material in a kiln, which itself is often powered by fossil fuels; heating the limestone until a chemical reaction releasing CO2 occurs; and transport the remaining material, called clinker.
Prometheus, co-founded by Mija Hubler, Wil Srubar, Sherri Cook and Jeffery Cameron, uses a process that burns virtually no carbon and produces building materials that are 15% lighter, more insulating and faster and less water-intensive at harden, according to Burnet.
Now, changing the construction world is simply a matter of market adoption and saturation, goals that Prometheus hopes to achieve through technology licensing.
“We have major players in the architecture and construction industry who are already part of the business from a strategic partner perspective,” Burnett said. Partners include Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Prometheus executives are quick to attribute at least part of their success to their relationship with CU.
Burnett said the company is the sixth he has helped found or lead and the fourth to emerge from the technology transfer program of CU or similar institutions.
“Technology transfer is a hugely underutilized asset in the United States,” he said of the CU office that introduced him to professors who developed the technology on which Prometheus is built.
Prometheus closed an $8 million Series A funding round in June led by Sofinnova Partners. The funding will be used to launch commercial production.
Burnett said the funding will provide a track for the next two years, “and then we will inevitably be ready to elevate a Series B that will be to a more substantial level than the Series A was.”