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From iron sludge to ceramic products

Called Oer, an initiative by Lotte de Raadt, this project investigates different possibilities for the application of iron sludge, a waste product of drinking water production, in ceramic products.

In Brabant, a province in the Netherlands, water is pumped up from hundreds of metres below the surface to turn into drinking water. The water has been there for thousands of years, containing no more oxygen and metals like manganese and iron having dissolved into it. To make the water potable, it undergoes an intensive filtering process to take the metals out. As soon as the iron comes into contact with air, it oxidizes turning into iron sludge.

Using this material, the Oer project creates tiles and other ceramic products in different shades. The iron sludge is mixed with clay, engobes and glazes. In addition to iron sludge from Brabant, the project also sources iron sludge from production plants or wetlands around Fågelsjö (Sweden) and Sardinia (Italy). Each location will give a different shade of iron sludge, which influences the colour or the Oer products. All products are handmade in local ceramics ateliers.

For a newly built water production plant called Brabant Water, designed by architectural studio Inbo, a wall of 10.000 tiles made of iron sludge was designed. More than thousand litres of iron sludge have to be processed to make these tiles. The tiles are produced by ceramics company Koninklijk Tichelaar and the wall should be realised in 2023.

Photos: Oer via DDW