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Biodegradable concrete casts made of sawdust

Researchers at the University of Michigan (US) created a biodegradable formwork made of sawdust to mitigate wood waste in the process of laying concrete.

Wood is often used as formwork for concrete construction, but after a single use is discarded. In addition, in the United States alone, 1.5 million kilograms of sawdust is dumped in landfills, and even more is burned.

The wood-based material is a result of the BioMatters project by the Digital Architecture Research and Technologies (DART) Lab at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The team mixed sawdust with biopolymers and various additives to create a material that can be moulded or 3D printed.

To demonstrate the material’s capabilities, the researchers used the material to make concrete formwork. They 3D printed a 1.8-metre structural column, after which they poured concrete into its centre incrementally. When the concrete was dry, the sawdust mould was peeled off.

The material can be recycled by adding water to create the viscosity level required for 3D printing. This way, the material can be reused over 25 times.

Photos: DART Lab