Bricks from beer

A new study has shown that grains from breweries can be used to make building bricks that are great insulators too. A small amount of spent grains, which are usually a waste product, are added to the ceramic paste. The resulting bricks have better heat retention than standard bricks.

This idea is more than hot air. Scientists in Portugal used so-called spent brewery grains, or SBG, as an additive to ceramic paste. After some experimentation, they settled on a 5% addition, which has the surprising effect of improving thermal insulation by 28%.

The clay is dried at 105°C and then fired at around 900°C, leading to a brick that is as strong as standard ones. Such conventional bricks often use polystyrene to increase their insulating qualities. This practice is frowned upon by European pollution regulations and so the race is on to offer alternatives.

One likely candidate is these ‘beer-bricks’. Research showed that the bricks using SBG are more porous and therefore trap more air, so that thermal emissions are reduced. As the bricks are still strong, they can be used for energy-efficient buildings.

Better still, the researchers state that after firing the bricks lose any remaining hoppy or beery smell. Previous experiments had to be abandoned because of this.

So the fibrous waste material from the beer brewing process turns out to be very useful. This is good news for any breweries using malt or barley, as they produce huge volumes of the stinky pulp. Some of this SBG can be used in animal feed, but it often ends up in landfill sites.

More info at New Scientist.

Images via Wikipedia/commons.