Bill Biamonte, co-founder of Sulfcrete — Technology Focus
Improving a Centuries-Old Material to Meet Today’s Needs
“This is really a high-tech disruptive technology and it’s going to change the way concrete can be made.”
It’s a strong statement from William Biamonte, co-founder of Green SulfCrete, Inc., but an accurate way of describing the process responsible for the “next-gen” concrete—a product his company has named SulfCrete.
The Origins of SulfCrete
While the name SulfCrete may be relatively new, the technology had its origins in the 1970s. Known as sulfur polymer concrete, it was developed and launched by the US Bureau of Mines. But while the concrete demonstrated superior performance, it was also expensive to produce, primarily because of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD), the modifier used in the production process.
“DCPD costs about $2,000 a ton, which added significantly to the total cost of sulfur polymer concrete and kept it from being used in widespread commercial applications,” explained Biamonte.
Instead, limestone-based conventional Portland concrete cement remained the preferred building material, which, while more economical, came with its own inherent drawbacks: a production method that uses massive amounts of energy while expending high levels of carbon into the atmosphere and a product that was vulnerable to salt water and acid and chemical attacks.
It wasn’t until scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory developed a method using waste materials and processes in place of DCPD that a commercially viable alternative to cement was created. In simplest terms, the SulfCrete process incorporates a stabilized sulfur binder using activated fillers to make sulfur polymer cement. Then, with the addition of aggregate such as stone and sand, the cement becomes sulfur concrete.
SulfCrete Advantages and Applications
SulfCrete offers several significant advantages over conventional cement, said Biamonte, starting with its environmentally-friendly manufacturing process—important since the concrete industry is under fire to find ways to reduce its carbon footprint.
Unlike limestone, which must be heated to 2,700 degrees in massive kilns as part of the cement-making process, sulfur’s low melting point requires 85% less energy. Nor does it adversely impact the environment. SulfCrete produces 94% less greenhouse gas in its process, unlike Portland cement, with the calcination process responsible for 40% of the carbon released, and fossil fuel burn for the remaining 60%.
The sulfur itself is readily available, due in part to the increase of oil and gas drilling, said Biamonte. “Sour gas in particular contains tremendous amount of sulfur. Refining the gas and removing the sulfur means there is an estimated 25 to 30 million metric tons of elemental sulfur stockpiling around the world. And that’s an environmental and financial liability for oil and gas companies,” he noted.
SulfCrete offers superior resistance to salt water, making it an ideal material for seawalls and piers built to protect shorelines. Equally important is its zero-water production process—relevant to areas plagued by drought as well as extremely cold locations, since the lack of water in the mixture means it can be used even in below-zero temperatures.
The Benefits of Partnering and Support
While Biamonte credits Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University for R&D and technical support as part of continuous process and product improvement, he also recognizes the role played by CEBIP.
“We’ve been a CEBIP client since the company was formed late in 2012, and that has played a tremendous part in getting us to where we are. Initially, we were a startup, a couple of people who had optioned the technology, and CEBIP helped us develop our focus,” he said. “With CEBIP, we did a training program, created our first pitch deck and practiced our presentation and our business rationale. CEBIP also introduced us to the whole startup network on Long Island, while just being a client of CEBIP gave us instant credibility.”
Like any new-to-market product, funding is essential. The company is negotiating a $400,000 research grant from NY State Energy and Research Development Agency, and, in conjunction with Brookhaven, has applied for a $750,000 commercialization grant from the Department Of Energy. Those grants, plus the $5 million investor funding the company is currently seeking, can result in production being launched within the next two years.
SulfCrete has also partnered with Roman Stone, a 113-year-old established concrete manufacturer on Long Island. Once all funding is in place, SulfCrete will build a 15,000 square-foot production facility on one acre of the property owned by Roman Stone. At the same time, Roman Stone’s CEO, Tom Montalbine, will assume the role of CEO at SulfCrete.
“With that grant money plus investor partnerships, we can make a serious commercialization effort that I’m convinced will be very successful,” said Biamonte. “Our product and production launch will ensure initial success and give us first-to-market advantage.”