The Next Great Building Material Could Be Sand From Deserts

Did you know we’re running out of the gritty sand that’s used to make concrete?

[Photo: courtesy Finite]

Researchers at the Imperial College London have invented a new building material that uses smooth desert sand–useless for construction until now–instead of the gritty sand needed to make concrete. Finite–the name of the material invented by post-graduate students Matteo Maccario, Carolyn Tam, Hamza Oza, and Saki Maruyami–is as strong as concrete and non-toxic.  But it has three other properties that can make it a key fight the current environmental crisis on three different fronts.

It turns out that not all sand is created equal. “Desert sand,” the inventors explain, “has little use [for construction], as its grains are too smooth and fine to bind together.” Or it didn’t until Finite, which uses the regular, wind-swept sand abundantly found in deserts all over the world instead of water-swept sand, the kind you find in rivers, beaches, and lakes.

According to the research team, abundant desert sand makes Finite economically competitive against concrete but, more importantly, it may help save millions of delicate water-based ecosystems around the world.

That makes Finite ideal for short-term infrastructure, the researchers say, like pavilions. They believe that it could be used for permanent structures too, but they need further testing and certifications for that. In fact, according to Oza, that’s the reason why they’re not commercializing it yet: “We are currently working on getting Finite approved for building regulations.”

And as to the name, it may be slightly contradictory since Finite is fully recyclable and reusable. Shouldn’t it be Infinite? Or perhaps its name is a reminder of our planet’s limited natural resources–sand included.

Excerpts from an article written by Jesus Diaz


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