New seaweed plasterboard design offers safer and more sustainable building option – India Education | Latest Education News | World Education News

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Andy (Minhong) Park, a Bachelor of Product Design student from the University of Canterbury (UC), has developed a biocomposite wall panel that uses seaweed – or seaweed – as a bio-filler as part of his industrial design project last year.

Gypsum board has fireproofing and moisture control characteristics and is an inexpensive material that could help reduce the carbon footprint of the building industry.

“Currently, the construction industry contributes 20 percent of our nation’s carbon emissions,” Park says. “As the sector faces the challenge of reducing carbon emissions while building more homes, and with plasterboard used in almost every home, seaweed plasterboard offers a viable green alternative.

“Algae grow rapidly at 0.5 meters per day and are capable of sequestering approximately 173 million metric tons of carbon per year. It is easy to grow and can be grown at sea, with no competition for farmland with other bio-based materials, making it an attractive, low-cost agricultural product. Because algae can absorb carbon underwater, large wall panel manufacturers could use algae cultivation as a carbon offset by growing them.

Algae biofill also helps make homes warmer, drier and safer, and Park says preliminary tests indicate fire performance at the level of commercially available products.

“Algae have been proven to reduce the risk of ignition, increase flame retardance and promote the self-extinguishing behavior of algae-based composite systems because they contain boron, a natural flame retardant. When seaweed is combined with cement, the strength of the resulting concrete is increased. Seaweed and its main constituent, alginate, have also been shown to have high thermal stability and low thermal conductivity, so plasterboard would take longer to break down in a fire,” says -he.

“Seaweed is also known for its ability to absorb and release moisture and is a greener alternative to traditional passive fire protection materials due to the absence of non-recyclable elements. This also allows it to be recycled and use it as fertilizer.

The finished seaweed plasterboard product has a shiny marble surface, which is green, red or brown in color depending on the type of seaweed used.

The 12-week project was overseen by Dr. Tim Huber, Senior Lecturer in Product Design at the University of Canterbury, in collaboration with Dr. Dennis Pau, Senior Lecturer in Fire Engineering at UC. Although still in the early stages of research, design and testing, the team is working with the University of Canterbury Research and Innovation team to develop a commercialization plan, and Kaiārahi Rangahau Māori to identify appropriate seaweed species for product development and marine agriculture.

The project recently won the UC Innovation Jumpstart Greatest Commercial Potential Award and accompanying $20,000 prize.

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