Cement production accounts for about 8% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Avoiding this pollution is not an easy task, especially because concrete is the most consumed material in the world after water. Many startups are looking for the right recipe for producing carbon-free concrete. And Microsoft wants to be a buyer.

“Something we can do right now and we’re doing right now is shop. You know, Concrete Supplier A can have a lower carbon content than Concrete Supplier B,” says Sean James, senior director of data center research at Microsoft.

“We believe the data center industry can lead the rest of the construction industry in implementing these things.”

Microsoft is testing such concrete mixes, which it hopes will result in half the carbon dioxide emissions of traditional concrete. In January of this year, outside one of its data centers, the company poured various types of hardening mixtures into concrete slabs. They’ll be watching the slabs over the next few months to see how they perform in data center construction.

Generally, cement is made by igniting a kiln filled with limestone and other materials. The process creates carbon dioxide emissions in two ways: through the burning of energy to heat the kiln and through the chemical reaction that occurs when the limestone is heated.

In Queens, Microsoft is testing several different strategies to reduce these emissions. One concrete mix is made from ash from coal plants and other types of industrial waste.

The corporation does not yet know when or if these materials will be ready to become the building blocks of its data centers. And even if they pass the test, the bulk of the data center’s carbon emissions still come from all the energy its servers use.

But if the pilot is successful, it could help Microsoft tackle pollution at least one link in the supply chain. Previously, the corporation promised to become a negative carbon system by 2030, that is, to absorb more carbon dioxide than it emits.

Recall that Microsoft appealed to the US federal government to create an agency that will regulate artificial intelligence.

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