Oct. 31, 2022

Chemistry grad and startup co-founder redefines what goes into carbon-storage cements

2022 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Doug Brown, PhD’17; Chief Technology Officer and co-founder, ZS2 Technologies
Doug Brown
Doug Brown Avenue Magazine

For some, cement is just cement — the stuff that goes into constructing a sidewalk, a road, a building.

But not in Dr. Doug Brown’s world. As chief technology officer and co-founder of ZS2 Technologies, Brown, PhD’17, and his company are repurposing waste brines from the oil-and-gas sector into carbon-storage cements. The direct air capture technology translates into highly resilient, more sustainable building materials than conventional cement, one of the most carbon-intensive materials around. One of the uses for this cement will be for rebuilding communities devastated from extreme climate events.

In just two-and-a-half years, ZS2 has grown from four to 50 employees and has been recognized by the Alberta Cleantech Investment Summit and named by Foresight Canada as one of the 50 most-investible cleantech companies in the country. On the world stage, Brown and the ZS2 team were recent finalists for the US$100-million XPRIZE, the biggest competition in history around carbon removal, funded by Elon Musk.

What do you miss about student life?

I loved being a student. I miss the sense of community and the time I had to keep up with my favourite journals on what new research is coming out! 

Where did you hang out on campus?

I spent a lot of time in Science A basement! We had some nice calendars that showed the mountains even though our lab had no windows. 

What has been your biggest career highlight?

I was really proud of being acknowledged as an XPRIZE finalist (in the Top 60) for the milestone awards this year for our carbon capture to cement solution. It was exciting to connect with like-minded companies in this space and get plugged into the global community.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

I get to do meaningful science every day that I love and the fact that what we are working on could really make a difference for climate change — how lucky am I!

Where do you or ZS2 want to be in five years?

In five years, ZS2 should be operating its carbon capture to cement plant and off-setting the equivalent of 10,000 homes in B.C every year. 

What do you wish you knew more about?

I wish I knew more about home renovations! I watched a couple episodes of a TV show that made it look easy and, three years later, I’m still renovating my condo in my “free” time. 

When you are not working, what do you do? 

When I’m not working, I’m doing something active somewhere. Whether its biking or hiking in the mountains or playing a sport in the city. I’m getting a workout in whenever I can.

How do you define an entrepreneur?

At the current stage of my company, I would say something like a “Master of Chaos.” You wear many different hats, but, as our company this year has grown to almost 50 people, I see the importance of a shared entrepreneurship vision.

With files from Avenue Magazine.

Meet the entire 2022 cohort of Top 40 Under 40 honourees at Avenue Magazine.