Researchers have created lightweight but strong polymer building blocks using inexpensive raw materials

Organic chemists at Flinders University are working on more sustainable alternatives, with a focus on building materials generated from waste, as firing bricks and producing mortar and cement are relatively expensive processes.

Another step towards the circular economy has been taken by researchers at the Flinders Chalker Lab, who have created lightweight yet strong polymer building blocks that can be chemically joined together without the need for adhesives.

Their most recent research looked at several ways to reinforce these materials in construction while testing their strength.

waste bricks

(Photo: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images)


According to Justin Chalker, Professor of Chemistry Matthew Flinders, the development of sustainable building materials is becoming increasingly necessary as the manufacture of cement, iron and steel is responsible for more than 15% of annual global CO2 emissions, according to ScienceDaily.

Using used cooking oil combined with sulfur and dicyclopentadiene, experts tested a new form of brick in this study (DCPD).

Sulfur and DCPD are by-products of petroleum refining.

When applying a very small amount of amine catalyst, the bricks bond without the use of mortar.

The raw materials can all be classified as industrial waste and are all readily available.

According to project director Professor Chalker, this research is part of a larger initiative to create a sustainable built environment.

Clean Earth Technologies is working with the new Chalker Lab Polymer Research Team at Flinders University College of Science and Engineering to advance development, expansion and potential commercialization.

The most recent study, featured as a cover story in a special durability issue of the journal Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, extended the investigation to test the mechanical qualities of the new bricks and look for ways to reinforce them in buildings, in particular by using carbon. fiber fillers.

The sulfur-sulfur connection of the polymer bricks allows them to be assembled without mortar, unlike the usual building approach, according to Chalker Lab research colleague Dr Maximilian Mann.

This allows the reuse of waste into value-added building materials.

According to Dr. Mann, the bonding in this innovative catalytic process is quite strong, providing a durable building material with its mortar that could perhaps speed up construction.

The study, according to its first author Paris Pauling, is a superb illustration of recent advances in the study of sustainable materials.

Read also : Lego starts developing bricks made from recycled plastic bottles

Ecobricks and their application

The ecobrick movement has gained momentum in recent years as plastic waste has made sensational international headlines, according to AZO Cleantech.

Given how common plastic is in homes and on the streets, it has become an increasingly popular building material, especially in developing countries.

Eco-bricks make an excellent building material when used with organic building techniques like cob, adobe, or wattle and daub.

Due to the densely packed insulating polymers, they also function as natural insulators.

Since its inception in 2015, the Global Ecobrick Alliance has offered step-by-step instructions on how to build eco-bricks.

According to their beliefs, the eco-brick and its components should be designed in a circular way, from cradle to cradle, to last longer.

Using non-recyclable materials in this way has various advantages. According to the BBC documentary ‘War on Plastic’, more than 60% of the plastic the UK ‘recycles’ is transported overseas and dumped in Asian countries like Malaysia.

Because many countries simply don’t have the recycling capacity to handle the amount of plastics being generated, waste is piling up along coastlines.

With the help of Ecobricks, people can not only clean up their rivers and beaches, but also reuse previously wasted resources to build something that will directly benefit the neighborhood.

Incentives for collecting plastic waste and creating eco-bricks for various projects are also provided by a number of NGOs.

Their design also highlights the need to stop investing in disposable cultures that harm the environment and start closing many of our industrial loops.

Although plastic has recently received a lot of attention, it is essential to keep in mind that it is often a very useful material.

Related article: ‘Grown’ natural bricks could revolutionize disaster relief

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