Looking to improve upon traditional clay bricks, researchers from Spain and Scotland found that by adding seaweed and wool to the mix, they could make a stronger, non-toxic and more sustainable building product. The new ingredients are also locally produced and the new mixture requires no firing, which make for a less energy intensive manufacturing process.
According to researchers Carmen Galán and Carlos Rivera, "the objective was to produce bricks reinforced with wool and to obtain a composite that was more sustainable, non-toxic, using abundant local materials, and that would mechanically improve the bricks' strength."
The clay-based soils were provided by brick manufacturers in Scotland, who also provided unusable and overruns of wool from the textile industry. Alginate conglomerate, a natural polymer found in the cell walls of seaweed, as also added to the clay and wool mixture. "These fibres improve the strength of compressed bricks, reduce the formation of fissures and deformities as a result of contraction, reduce drying time and increase the bricks' resistance to flexion."
Tests showed the compound to be 37% stronger than other bricks made using unfired stabilised earth. Additionally, these bricks can be made without firing, which is a huge energy saving compared to traditionally fired brick blocks.
(Image: Galán-Marín et al)