Strength of seaweed
Seaweed is mineral-rich and can help heal human skin. It’s also a versatile textile and a building material.
Seaweed, technically a type of algae, has healing qualities due to the minerals and gases it absorbs from the nutrient-filled ocean. This makes it suitable for use in skin creams and similar beauty products. It’s also been used in a new generation of skin-friendly fibres called SeaCell, a soft and breathable textile.
However, it also has great value to the construction industry, particularly in insulation and in bricks. German scientists recently showed that balls of seaweed, called Neptune Grass, can store considerable energy: 2,5 (kJ/kg·K). This is 20% higher than wood. This has led to industry partners teaming with researchers to turn Neptune Grass into a commercially viable insulation.
Even better, this material is also virtually non-inflammable and resistant to mould and it can be used as an insulating material without chemical additives.
Seaweed also has considerable strengthening properties. In a collaborative study on sustainable building materials, researchers from the University of Seville and the University of Strathclyde have created bricks with sheep’s wool and a polymer derived from seaweed added to clay. These new bricks are not only more environmentally friendly than standard bricks, but are mechanically stronger than traditional bricks too.
Because wool-and-seaweed bricks don’t need to be fired, they consume far less energy during their production. In addition, simply by adding the wool and the natural seaweed polymer to the clay, the resulting brick is 37% stronger than traditional bricks.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, such bricks also become far more resistant to cold and wet climates so common in areas where sustainable thinking has taken hold. There is no word yet from Seville or Strathclyde on any plans to produce the bricks commercially, but this is definitely an application of seaweed to watch.