Roads with cracks and bumps are often a result of unstable ground beneath the road surface. There are currently many ways of repairing such roads, all which are polluting. You can exchange all of the road, or mill up and reclaim parts of the road and bind it together with a substance with “glue-like” properties such as bitumen, or you could add new asphalt, concrete or gravel on top of the cracks and bumps, then you’ll likely get the same cracks and bumps a year later, since this doesn’t stabilize the soil beneath.
Our method is an enhanced, new way of full depth reclamation, with two main advantages: 1) Our proprietary built Crusher can chew and crush pretty much everything including stone and mountain surfaces, meaning we do not have to extract, transport and add any new masses and can re-use all of the road, even in rugged terrain like mountainside Norway. 2) Our binder. It’s based on lignin, a waste product from the paper industry, constituting around 1/3 of the volumes from trees. The majority of lignin is burnt, we make use of it as a binder in our roads instead, binding the carbon absorbed by the trees from the air. Our binder has no negative impact on vegetation, animals, humans or equipment. It is actually so harmless that our test-pilot Hans Arne often takes a sip of it to prove it to our customers and competitors! But it does not taste very good..
Here you see a video of our Crusher crushing large rocks (thrown in by Hans Arne): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1O1uWT5PARDWWHshac128hhv1tRk...
In combination, this results in approximately 20% lower cost compared to traditional methods, roads that on average last longer between each time they need repairs, and a reduction of Co2 equivalents from ~7-10kg positive to 5kg negative pr m2, or approximately 1 tonne net negative per 60 feet we refurbish, of a 2 lane road.
We are innovating to improve efficiency and the carbon effect of both the Crusher and the binder. For the Crusher we are working on making it smarter in addition to being powerful, with more and smarter sensor tech and from being dragged behind a tractor towards being autonomous, which could increase efficiency by 40-50%. For the binder we are experimenting with new combinations to store more CO2, adding to the lignin base we use now. We are looking at a range of new biological additions such as other types of refined lignin, other carbon negative materials and potentially programmable carbon negative molecules that can mimic the favorable binding properties, and we aim for a 5x increase in carbon capture efficiency within a few years.
We’re three climate vikings from Norway with big hearts, bound together from earlier tech adventures. Kris dropped out of college at age 19 to found his first software company, and met his hardware match Hans on another project 10 years ago. Kris invested when Haakon co-founded Katapult and started scaling sustainability and tech companies 6 years ago, and early last year we all excitedly decided to join forces to build Carbon Crusher. The very first road though, refurbished with our method, was made 14 years back in Hans Arnes hometown, “Heart Valley” in Norway. Being able today to drive, touch it and see how good it still is, is a nice unique competitive edge for us and that our recent customers appreciate. Even if volumes have been limited so far it’s good to also have actual recent happy customers (municipalities, cities, counties and a few industrial companies) as ambassadors, as the road business is very conservative; we have sometimes struggled with being nicknamed “the tree glue folks”….
To scale our impact faster, we are working on changing from one off tender projects where we do the full refurbishment service for our customers, public or private road owners, towards a crushing as a service model with longer term contracts, licensing of tech to contractors and less people and hardware involved from our side.
On the product expansion side, we are currently most excited about developing software using satellite imagery that can monitor road health and identify repair needs for road owners effectively and give instant quotes and Co2 savings potential, we call it “SkyRoads”. Further, we are working on new complementary road tech that can enhance and add to the carbon potential from our solution. This includes sustainable top layers and capturing and dissemination of energy captured by the roads.
We want to re-invent the way we think about the 44 million miles of roads covering our planet, directly emitting over 400 million tonnes CO2 every year in building and maintenance, indirectly more through heat reflection. Our goal would be to 5x the carbon reduction potential of our current solution, using roads as a platform for a host of technologies on carbon reduction. On an annual basis, that could be 2 Gt each year. It’s a very conservative industry with limited innovation, especially on the climate side, and we believe someone needs to make those stretched targets.
All this inspires us; to make our planet’s roads, which is often overlooked in climate discussion, a part of the solution. It will require hardware, biotech and software innovation, and that excites us. If we succeed, our direct and indirect carbon impact will contribute in a meaningful way to our shared climate challenges.
We are super excited to launch this and be part of the YC community. Hopefully this post gave you some new interest in sustainable road tech. Please do reach out with any questions and we'll try our best to answer! You are also more than welcome to reach us also by email any time on [email protected]. Thanks!