Here in the Philippines, we have sugar plantations all over the country. In fact, Sugarcane is the world’s most-produced crop as of 2021 and is grown mostly for use as sugar and ethanol. Bagasse is the waste product left behind after the sugarcane is crushed to harvest the juice. Some of the leftover material is used for biofuel, but much is left to go to waste. Many of the world’s developing countries are key sugarcane producers, so finding a way to turn the bagasse waste into a valuable new product would provide significant support in further developing local economies.
A collaborative project based at the University of East London has brought together researchers, commercial partners, sustainability experts, and architects to create Sugarcrete, a concrete brick replacement. According to the team, the global brick industry could be completely replaced if only 30 percent of the world’s bagasse waste was used for Sugarcrete production.
Sugarcrete bricks are ultra-low carbon and are made by mixing bagasse with mineral binders. A fast-growing crop, sugarcane is an extremely efficient carbon sink. The final product becomes a particularly sustainable building option when combined with the low-emission manufacturing process.
The polyhedral bricks are designed to lock together to create strength without the need for additional supplies. Square slabs of the bricks are held together with only perimeter ties, and the team is working on strengthening the bricks further.
The bricks meet industry standards for strength, durability, fire resistance, and thermal properties, and are four times lighter than traditional bricks with only 15 percent of the carbon footprint. The team has made its research open source in order to support communities in developing new industries to replace the need to import expensive building supplies.
The usefulness of sugarcane biowaste is being recognized by various innovators, who are transforming it into a range of new products. The open-source design allows communities to replace expensive imports with local production particularly here in the Philippines to minimize importation. Visit http://uel.ac.uk/sugarcrete-slab to know more about this innovation.