Energy-Efficient Bricks Use Glass, Scrap Materials

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2024

Engineers from RMIT University have invented bricks created using waste materials that could reportedly reduce household energy bills by up to 5% compared to regular bricks due to improved insulation.

The university collaborated with Australia’s largest recycling company Visy to make the bricks with a minimum of 15% waste glass and 20% ash as substitutes for clay.

About the Research

Team leader and associate professor Dilan Robert said that about 1.4 trillion bricks are used in construction projects globally every year.

“Business-as-usual brick production produces harmful emissions—including carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and chlorine—and puts a serious strain on our natural resources, particularly clay,” said Dilan, from RMIT’s School of Engineering.

The team’s research reportedly showed the new bricks have enhanced energy efficiency through improved thermal performance.

Additionally, they have met structural, durability and environmental sustainability standards, including the key compliance requirement of fired clay bricks set by Standards Australia (AS 3700).   

“Bricks play a key role in preventing energy loss from buildings,” Robert said. “We can also produce light-weight bricks in a range of colors from white to dark red by changing our formulations.”

Dr. Biplob Pramanik, the team’s environmental engineer, said the new bricks were safe to use in construction projects.

“Our bricks, manufactured from industry waste, meet state environmental regulations,” he said.

In Victoria, Visy recycles glass packaging back into new bottles and jars in Victoria. However, glass pieces smaller than 3 millimeters—referred to as fines—cannot be recycled into bottles.

“We are focusing on scaling up the production process to facilitate the commercialization of our innovative bricks in collaboration with brick manufacturers in Melbourne,” Robert explained.

Paul Andrich, Innovation Project Manager at Visy, said the company was thrilled to find a solution for material that cannot be recycled into food and beverage packaging. 

“Diverting this waste into bricks with added insulation, rather than landfill, is another way we are powering the circular economy," he noted.

Test results have reportedly revealed that using these bricks in the construction of a single-story building could reduce household energy bills by up to 5% compared to regular bricks.

Replacing clay with waste materials in the brick production also helped reduce the firing temperature by up to 20% compared with standard brick mixtures.

The research team says it wants to collaborate with industries to explore applications of waste material in other construction products. The work was recently published in the journal Construction and Building Materials.

Other Recycled Building Materials

Earlier this month, the Technological Institute of Plastics, AIMPLAS, in Spain reported it is working on an initiative to produce new, sustainable formulations and construction materials using carbon dioxide and waste from the citrus industry.

The BUILD-LIMONENE initiative aims to develop biodegradable materials with a lower carbon footprint that can be used in the industry, offering alternatives to the materials currently available in the market.

The institute notes that, in particular, some of the most in-demand applications are sustainable polymers, additives and coatings.

In February, a team from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden developed a new wood composite using lemon and coconut components to potentially heat and cool homes. Peter Olsén, researcher in the Division of Biocomposites at KTH, said the material can store both heat and cold.

If used in housing construction, the researchers found that 100 kilos of the material can save about 2.5 kWh per day in heating or cooling, given an ambient temperature of 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 degrees Fahrenheit).  

Limonene acrylate then transforms into a bio-based polymer when heated, restoring the wood’s strength and allowing light to permeate. When this happens the coconut molecules are trapped within the material, enabling the storage and release of energy, the institute explained.

Prior to that, in August, researchers from Bayreuth University created an upcycling process that transforms aluminum-plastic composite films into energy-saving films using polymer coatings.

According to the release, films made from APL are used to extend the shelf life of foods such as chips, roasted and powdered coffee, milk, fruit juices and other foods. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they were also used to package FFP2 masks and rapid tests. 

These films, the university explains, consist of several polymer layers and an aluminum layer, which protects the products from damaging factors, including sunlight, heat, moisture and oxygen. However, recycling such composite films is reportedly difficult due to the combination of different materials. 

To resolve this, researchers at Bayreuth studied the aluminium layer of APL packaging since it provides a mirror-like reflective surface. They found that if a clear polymer layer was applied, the radiation of thermal energy was increased and created a “powerful” cooling system.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Brick; Building materials; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Energy efficiency; Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Green building; Green design; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Recycled building materials; Research and development; Sustainability; Z-Continents

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