Energy-smart bricks keep waste out of landfill

My Nguyen

My Nguyen

RMIT University

In partnership with Visy – Australia’s largest recycling company – RMIT University engineers have created energy-saving bricks with landfill materials in place of clay.

Containing a minimum of 15 per cent waste glass and 20 per cent ash waste, these bricks have been proven to reduce household energy bills in single-storey homes by achieving better insulation.

By reducing the burning temperature during production by up to 20 per cent, the non-clay bricks also reduce manufacturers’ production costs and their carbon footprint.

“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 Robert, a team leader and associate professor from RMIT’s School of Engineering.

He said about 1.4 trillion bricks are used in construction projects worldwide each year. 

The team’s latest research is published in the international journal Construction and Building Materials.

The energy-savings promise for homes and workplaces

Achieving strict structural, durability and environmental sustainability standards, the reformed bricks have lowered energy use through the thermal process and yet still meet compliance requirements for fired clay bricks set by Standards Australia (AS 3700).

Robert said the team can create lightweight bricks in a variety of colours by changing the formulas.

Energy-smart bricks keep waste out of landfill

“Our bricks, manufactured from industry waste, meet state environmental regulations,” added Dr Biplob Pramanik, the RMIT team’s environmental engineer.

A “circular economy solution” to a big waste challenge

In Victoria, Visy can only reuse glass packaging to make new bottles and jars if the glass pieces are larger than 3mm in size, as smaller and finer pieces cannot be recycled into bottles.

Paul Andrich, Visy’s innovation project manager, said exploiting non-recyclable waste into bricks or food-and-beverage packaging can strengthen the circular economy.

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

The team is looking forward to collaborating with industries to find eco applications for construction products.

Innovation supported by peer-reviewed research

The RMIT team has published peer-reviewed research on the brick innovation in several journals.

‘Utilizing rejected contaminants from the paper recycling process in fired clay brick production’ is published in Construction and Building Materials. (DOI:10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2023.134031)

Energy efficiency of waste reformed fired clay bricks – from manufacturing to post application’ is published in the journal Energy. (DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2023.128755)

A viable solution for industrial waste ash: Recycling in fired clay bricks’ is published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering. (DOI: 10.1061/JMCEE7.MTENG-15165)

Transformation of waste-contaminated glass dust in sustainable fired clay bricks’ is published in Case Studies in Construction Materials. (DOI: 10.1016/j.cscm.2022.e01717)

Comment

Subscribe – it's free