Sunday , September 25 2022

South Africa manufactures the world's first human urine brick


urine, bio-brick, ecological

Dr. Dyllon Randall, one of the makers of the world's first bio-brick that uses human urine as one of the ingredients that are bound. Image: Rodger BOSCH / AFP

One day, when nature calls, your urine could be better used than deflagration under the trunk.

Instead, it could be a key ingredient in building a green office or a new home.

In one of the latest innovations in the search for eco-building materials, South African researchers have created bricks using human urine.

The first of their kind in the world, bio-bricks retain the prospect of a viable alternative to standard clay and concrete, they hope.

The prototypes have been "developed" from the urine using a technique somewhat similar to the natural shell formation, which takes six to eight days to form.

The pioneering invention is the two-year-old spiritual child of the University of Cape Town and a professor.

With a grant from the Government Water Research Council, the feasibility study began last year using synthetic urea. And then the study escalated into the use of human urine.

"I was always curious to know why we do not use urine to do the same," Dyllon Randall, a lecturer who supervises one of the two students, told AFP.

"The simple answer is:" Yes we can. "

A year later they successfully produced their first organic brick in a laboratory.

Using a natural process known as microbial carbonate precipitation, they mix urine, sand and bacteria to make the brick.

Research is still in its early days. So far, up to 30 liters (US gallons) of urine are required to make only one brick with the urine provided by male students at the university through a special bait.

"Basically we created the first organic brick by real urine," said Randall.

"This process is terrific because basically what we did was that we developed bricks at room temperature."

The first three bricks are on the screen. They are gray heavy blocks and are not distinguished by standard limestones.

Copying the natural processes of nature

Suzanne Lambert, a Civil Engineering student, admires how the team copies the "natural processes of nature" to create a sustainable way of building.

"This process mimics how coral is formed and natural processes produce a cement," he said.

Conventional bricks or clay bricks are manufactured in kilns, where they are dried at 1400 degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit), a process that produces large emissions of carbon dioxide.

Instead, the bio-brick is "grown" through loose sand sown with bacteria that produce an enzyme called urease.

Urease reacts with urine in the urine to produce a cement-type compound attached to the sand.

The product can be molded in any shape and dried at ambient temperatures – no ovens, no greenhouse gas emissions.

"We take something that is considered a stream of waste like urine and we use it in a fully viable process," said Randall.

And for those who worry about the smell of urine that penetrate the walls, the good news is that the brick does not smell. The intense smell of ammonia that comes from the urine dissolves after a few days of drying.

Colleague researcher Vukheta Mukhari said that the power of the brick can be adapted to the specific requirements of buildings, but what they have produced so far is "as strong as the common bricks you find on the market."

Bio-bricks are already being manufactured in the US but use synthetic urine forms.

These, however, are the first to use natural human waste.

Will the bio-brick be removed one day from standardized clay or concrete?

The key factor is price, but at this very early stage of development there has been no attempt to investigate the cost.

"We are still a long way from trading this thing as a full-scale system," Randall warned, but said there was a lot of profit margins in efficiency.

"Right now we need between 20 and 30 liters to build a standard brick. That's a lot, but remember that about 90 percent of the urine is actually water," Randall said.

"We are considering reducing the amount of urine we require to make a brick and I am sure that in the coming years it will have far better results." NVG


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