Environment

Paper waste used to make "green" bricks

A length of the paper-based bricks being extruded
A length of the paper-based bricks being extruded
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A length of the paper-based bricks being extruded
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A length of the paper-based bricks being extruded
Samples of the paper-based bricks (Photo: Plataforma SINC)
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Samples of the paper-based bricks (Photo: Plataforma SINC)
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Paper waste has already been used to create things like foam and batteries – now, a team of researchers from Spain’s University of Jaen are making bricks out of the stuff. Although the finished products still need a little tweaking before they're ready for prime time, they could ultimately give traditional bricks a run for their money.

The scientists gathered cellulose waste from a paper mill, along with sludge left over from the purification process of that plant’s waste water. Those substances were then mixed with clay used in building construction, pressurized, and then extruded in one long sausage-like length. The bricks were subsequently sliced from that material, and fired in a kiln.

According to the researchers, the bricks didn’t need to be fired for as long as their conventional counterparts, due to their paper content. If they were being produced commercially, this would result in considerable savings in energy and production costs.

The addition of the paper also caused the bricks to exhibit low thermal conductivity, meaning that they would have good insulating properties if used in a building. Of course, they would also divert a waste product from landfills, and would allow brick-makers to stretch their clay supplies farther.

Samples of the paper-based bricks (Photo: Plataforma SINC)
Samples of the paper-based bricks (Photo: Plataforma SINC)

At just 3 x 1 x 6 cm (1.18 x .39 x 2.36 inches) the existing bricks are quite small, although larger ones have also been created, and reportedly displayed similar qualities. Unfortunately, however, their mechanical resistance isn’t great – so far. Although it’s above the legal minimum, it’s not up there with that of traditional bricks.

The team hope to address this limitation, perhaps by additionally incorporating waste from the beer, olive or biodiesel industries, or sewage sludge. Researchers from Spain’s University of Seville and Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde have also been experimenting with making bricks that are composed partly of surplus sheep’s wool.

A paper on the University of Jaen research was recently published in the journal Fuel Processing Technology.

Source: Plataforma SINC (Spanish)

7 comments
Slowburn
While I am not convinced that this is the best use of the materials increasing the insulating qualities of a brick facade is worth doing.
Buellrider
To "____ a brick" comes to mind when I read the part about sewage being used.
Bruce Miller
Hemp crops legal in Canada, will inevitably lead to hemp fibre in paper around the world (except U.S.A. - forbidden by a false flag tariff wall there) Will hemp fibre give the desired strength? We can grow hemp in the fertilizer from anaerobic digestion for methane of manure and humanure?
pomaikai
Papercrete in various compositions already exists. Refractory brick is a different building material, though.
Wayne LeTendre
lol, Reminds me of Brown 25...from Uranus Corporation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRPQSxp25z4)
packoftwenty
Bricks are the most stupid and inefficient way to build a building with, ever invented. And also use huge amounts of energy to make. Strawbale is much cheaper, a far better insulator, and far easy to build with. You can build an entire house's walls in a few days with straw bales.
Shawn Tisdell
Straw and clay go back thousands of years, buildings made from this material (cob, adobe, for example). I think it is very smart to look to local resources for our building materials. I have built with straw bales and cob and they work very well together. Bricks have the advantage of, since being fired, are very resistant to water degradation (although they wick water quite well) as well as insects and burrowing animals such as mice. As to there overall efficiency, it all depends on the climate, the source location of source materials compared to where they are being used for construction, the labor market...Bricks can be wonderful components of building construction, but they are just one component. Strawbales too can be a great way to build, but they might not be available locally, and they also are just one part of overall building design. Another thing we usually need to consider are the local building codes. Officials might look more friendly on materials such as bricks, over something like strawbales, which they are unfamiliar with. This is not to say that strawbales are not an option, but that more effort may be required to get the required coding approval.