In what can just turn out to be a watershed moment in affordable housing, scientists have developed a construction material from peat and oil shale ash. If the material developed is incorporated into the construction, it can reduce the costs of a building’s shell by one-tenth of the price of what it would cost to construct a traditional framed shell of the same size.
Scientists from the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences wanted to create a self-supporting construction material based on local natural resources and waste. The scientists wanted the material to be of such a consistency that it can be used to 3D print houses up to two-storeys directly at the construction site, as reported in journal Science Direct under Sustainable Materials and Technologies.
It is noteworthy here that some of the earliest houses in Northern Europe were made out of slabs of peat. It was cheap and abundantly available.
Peat is found in plentiful amounts in Estonia as the nation has 22% of landscape as wetlands. The country also produces an estimated 7 million tonnes of shale oil ash annually, out of which only 5 per cent gets re-purposed.
To make the best use of available resources, researchers created a 3D-printable concrete-like material made mainly from milled peat, with oil shale ash serving as a binder. Silica nanoparticles are also added to the mix to make it strong.
The material that developed after the combination has astounding results. It hardens within one day of being printed, but remain elastic for some time, giving enough time to stack the blocks snugly together without any gaps between them that would allow wind to pass through.
The material is not only strong, but it is also light, durable, incombustible (despite the fact that peat is commonly burned as fuel), exhibits a low rate of heat transfer, and is good at blocking sound. And above all, the material is cheap and environment-friendly.