THU AM News: UW-led team developing new ‘carbon-negative’ form of cement; WMC survey highlights employers’ rising health care costs

— A team led by UW-Madison engineers is developing a new form of cement in hopes of lowering the environmental impact. 

According to an overview from the university’s College of Engineering, production of the most frequently used cement in the world — called portland cement — leads to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere annually. That accounts for about 8 percent of all emissions coming from human activities, the university says. 

By using a direct-capture carbon removal system previously developed by UW-Madison professors and combining the resulting materials with industrial waste products, the research team aims to create a form of carbon-negative cement to replace portland cement. 

Rob Annex, a professor of biological systems engineering, and Bu Wang, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, created the direct-capture system for the Musk Foundation’s 2022 XPRIZE carbon removal competition. The system draws carbon dioxide out of the air and ultimately creates a material that can be combined with coal ash to create constituent elements of cement. 

“Portland cement today is produced using raw materials like limestone, clay and sand,” Wang said in the university’s overview. “In our new cement, one of the key ingredients is waste materials — like coal ash, slag from steel and iron production, or cement kiln dust.”

The overview shows prior efforts to make concrete that captures carbon from the atmosphere have resulted in mixtures that captured little carbon and “haven’t been suitable for casting and setting on-site.” According to Wang, the new mixture may offer a way to put carbon dioxide into the material before it’s made. 

“When we make the concrete, the carbon dioxide is already there, so all we’d have to do is pour it like normal and allow it to harden by itself,” he said. 

Wang and Annex are working on this effort with other researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois-Chicago. It’s one of 18 such projects funded through a U.S. Department of Energy initiative, getting $2.3 million in grant funding over three years. 

Find more details here: 

— A recent survey of employers in the state found more than a third saw their health care costs rise over 10 percent in the last year. 

The Wisconsin Employer Survey, conducted twice each year by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, tapped 216 employers for the summer 2022 edition. According to WMC, respondents make up a representative sample of the group’s membership, including companies “of all sizes, industries and geographic locations in Wisconsin.” 

Of the 35 percent of respondents that saw an increase of more than 10 percent, 27 percent saw costs rise between 11 and 20 percent. Six percent had an increase between 21 and 30 percent, and 2 percent saw health care prices rise over 30 percent. 

Meanwhile, 45 percent saw an increase of 6 to 10 percent, 15 percent had an increase between 1 and 5 percent, and 4 percent saw no change. 

Respondents were also surveyed on the current strength of the state and national economies, expectations for both, inflation, supply chain issues, energy costs and the possibility of a recession. 

“Businesses continue to be hit hard by ever-increasing costs and perpetual supply chain challenges,” WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer said in the survey report. “These issues are driving Wisconsin employers to be deeply concerned about the prospect of a slowing economy.”

See more survey results: 

— A specialist at Marshfield Clinic Health System says a new digital care management platform will help the system add staff and grow its orthopedics program. 

New York-based Force Therapeutics yesterday announced its platform has been selected by the Marshfield-based health system. According to a release, the platform will support remote monitoring and messaging tools to connect joint replacement patients with their care providers.

“With the Force platform, our patients will be able to stay connected to us both before and after surgery, streamlining their care experience,” said Dr. David Simenstad, orthopedic surgery specialist and chief of orthopedics at MCHS. 

Following the platform launching for joint replacement surgeons, MCHS expects to expand it to spinal procedures, sports medicine and eventually all of its musculoskeletal services. That’s according to Jeron Jackson, the health system’s service line administrator for oncology and musculoskeletal services. 

“The enhanced efficiencies that digital care management brings will increase the case volume that our programs can successfully accommodate,” Jackson said in the release. 

See the release: 

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— Startup accelerator gener8tor is launching a new seed fund and three accelerator programs in North Dakota, the organization announced recently.

According to a release, both the gener8tor 1889 fund and accelerator programs will provide support, mentorship and access to in-state and out-of-state capital to early-stage companies throughout North Dakota. It’s being launched in partnership with 50 South Capital Advisors, based in Chicago. 

“North Dakota has a wealth of entrepreneurial talent and we are thrilled to bring our focus on investing in the best and brightest to communities throughout the State, from Williston to West Fargo,” gener8tor co-founders Joe Kirgues and Troy Vosseler said in a statement. 

Similar to other gener8tor accelerators, each of the five participating startups will receive $100,000 from the seed fund, and the group’s gBETA program will provide free, non-equity acceleration mentorship to at least 10 startups annually.

The Wisconsin-based organization has launched accelerator programs in a number of other states. 

See more at Madison Startups: 


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– Another near perfect week for fieldwork in Wisconsin


– Inspectors investigating cause of New Berlin sports complex’s roof collapse amid heavy rains


– Wisconsin youth honored as National Holstein DJM finalists


– A vacant school in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood is to be converted into a big child care center designed to ease waiting list


– AT&T offering $10,000 sign-on bonus for installation technicians


– Court: Property owner not entitled to compensation for temporary highway easement


– Greendale industrial knife maker sold in $26 million transaction

– Zurn closes $1.5 billion merger with Elkay


– Nashville Metro Council withdraws possible agreement for hosting RNC


– The longtime home of Ma Baesch herring in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood has a new owner. Redevelopment plans are coming.

– Saukville Walmart store building sold for $7.2 million


– Madison LGBT and ally businesses get $60,000 for pandemic recovery

– Car crashes into Park Inn, diner temporarily closed

– Community rallies to support local business owner after a house fire


– Legacy companies like Generac and Kohler transformed by embracing technology


– Startup theater Bombshell Theatre Co. works to build sustainability, tell rarely told stories


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