UCLA engineer develops technologies designed to turn the tide of climate change

Gaurav Sant portrait

In an interview, Gaurav Sant — a professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA — reflected on tackling major challenges, what he does when someone says his ideas won’t work, how his research fits into a tradition and how it doesn’t.


Sant recalled when he first talked about his idea of making concrete from carbon dioxide with people in academia and industry, they told him, “There’s little possibility this is ever going to work.” His reply was, “Challenge accepted.”

It turns out that nobody had carefully looked at this process for using carbon dioxide to make concrete. He went through the due diligence to make sure it wasn’t physically infeasible, and eventually realized that he could build and scale up the process. “From there, I think we just persevered longer than others might have,” he said. “It’s taken hard work from generations of Ph.D. students, postdoctoral researchers and staff scientists.”

His team recently won the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a global competition for carbon removal technologies. Sant also founded the company CarbonBuilt, based at CNSI’s Magnify incubator, to move the technology forward. CarbonBuilt is building its first commercial plants in the U.S. at this point, and the technology will be deployed at an industrial scale in early 2023.

“Our goal is to translate research into impact,” Sant said. “Academia and government labs tend to work on fundamental research related to materials and processes. And for-profit companies are disinclined to take on technology development efforts that aren’t assured commercial success.”


With colleagues, he also helped develop a system for removing carbon from the ocean, so that seawater can take up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He received support not just at UCLA Samueli School of Engineering but around the campus, in L.A. and around the world. He called himself fortunate to be doing fun things with a team of people he wants to work with, “today, tomorrow and from there on.”


Read more about Guarav Sant’s work at UCLA Newsroom.


Image Source: Temasek Foundation