Eco-BLAC Bricks: Sustainable masonry from industrial waste

Over 250 billion clay bricks are produced throughout India annually. This centuries-old product remains the subcontinent’s most commonly used building material, even as the environmentally detrimental production of fired clay bricks is responsible for a third of India’s coal consumption and hundreds of millimeters of topsoil erosion. Alternative building materials that rely on fewer resource-constrained raw materials and have a lower embodied energy could provide India with a much-needed substitution for this unsustainable practice.

This research aims to provide India with the resources to not only reduce the production of these energy intensive building materials, but to also curb the dumping of certain industrial wastes by recycling them into a more sustainable brick.

For successful production of waste-derived building materials, chemistry is incredibly important. Consequently our work to date has focused on the detailed characterization of agricultural residue-derived biomass ash—a byproduct of energy production at small- and medium-scale enterprises throughout India. This research has led to the successful production a masonry product made primarily from this ash. Current work is focused on formula optimization and durability testing.

We hope that this work will further develop the field’s knowledge of useful waste materials, and intend to expand our work to include other industrial waste products with relevant chemical constitutions. In this way, we can have a global impact in the reduction of a variety of environmental burdens—creating value where there was initially only waste.

AWARD: Eco-BLAC Bricks was an award-winning finalist in the 2015 MIT $100K Accelerate Entrepreneurship competition, and was named one of the the top innovations of 2015 by Mashable.

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