Sandcastle Worms Inspire Green Building Materials


A research group from the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has reportedly developed low-carbon building materials, derived from natural sandcastle worms.

“Usually, various adhesives, such as the geopolymers, resins, and high pressure-induced adhesives are used as the cement substitutes to fabricate the low-carbon building materials,” explains the institute in its release.

“Compared with these binders, the natural-based adhesives are promising due to the renewability and eco-friendliness of bio-resources.”

Led by professor Wang Shutao, the study found that sandcastle worms, however, can build up colonial sandcastles as nests along the coastlines. In this process, they bind various sands and shell pieces into the nests.

“Tremendous research efforts have been devoted to binding grains by using bio-polymers as adhesives or bio-mineralization approaches. However, due to the weak mechanical properties of these grain aggregates, there are still limits in practical constructions,” wrote the institute.

“Developing the strong natural-based low-carbon building materials is therefore challenged but of great significance to reduce the carbon emissions and energy consumption in practical application.”

They reportedly realized that the “key point” is the composite adhesive secreted by the sandcastle worms, which contains cationic proteins and anionic proteins simultaneously.

The scientists then created the sandcastle-inspired materials to mimic this process, using oppositely charged bio-polymer adhesives. They note that they can be constructed using various grains, such as sands and concrete slags, under low temperature and atmospheric pressure.

According to the researchers, other properties of the proposed building materials include anti-weathering, waterproofness and recyclability.

The work was recently published in the journal Matter and was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the International Partnership Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Other Worm-Inspired Projects

Last year, researchers in China also reportedly developed a new superhydrophobic coating that provides several beneficial properties, including the ability to self-clean and prevent corrosion.

Inspired by Calliteara pudibunda, a highly elastic type of bristle worm, the polyphenylene sulfide (PSS) composite coating is created by combining expandable graphite and elastic fluororubber.

Wanting to create a superhydrophobic coating that would adhere to rough structures and provide chemical durability, the research team synthesized hydrophobic nanoparticles using the sol-gel method with modified perfluorodecyltrichlorosilane (PFTS). These particles could reportedly expand to create micro- and nanostructures for superhydrophobicity during the treatment, with a water contact angle of 154±1.2 degrees and sliding angle of 3±0.5 degrees.

Additionally, this combination created repairable microstructures that allow the coating to self-heal. The fluororubber resin acts as an elastic micro-support, to increase the coating’s resistance to bear and repair mechanical damage.

The thermal expansion and compression of the coating can uphold its superhydrophobicity and repair its damaged nanostructures even after 2,000 abrasion cycles under 125 kPa, exhibiting “fantastic” mechanical durability.

Scientists reported that the coating possessed strong anticorrosion and anti-scaling properties in a high salinity oil and water emulsion, due to the oleophilicty of the compound. This reportedly transforms the surface shielding layer from fragile air fil to stable oil firm to “impede scaling and corrosion mediums.”


Tagged categories: Adhesive; Asia Pacific; Bio-based materials; Biomimicry; Building materials; Carbon footprint; Coatings Technology; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Emissions; Environmental Controls; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Research; Research and development; Z-Continents

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