Construction materials

Bacteria Could Help Make Green Building Materials

Researchers at the University of Bath are studying whether the natural properties of bacteria could help develop a new type of environmentally friendly plasterboard.

They work with the start-up Adaptavate, which makes sustainable building materials. Their biodegradable gypsum board, Breathaboard uses compostable crop waste instead of gypsum, is lighter in weight, and has better thermal and acoustic insulation compared to traditional gypsum board.

Microbiologists from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath and concrete experts from the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering received funding from the National Biofilms Innovation Center (NBIC) for a six-month pilot project to optimize the properties of the gypsum board prototype using their bacteria-based construction technology (BBCT).

If successful, the plasterboard can be enlarged and developed further.

Dr Susanne Gebhard, Senior Lecturer in the University’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry and the Milner Center for Evolution is leading the project in collaboration with Professor Kevin Paine from the University’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering.

She said: “Biofilms are formed when bacteria stick together to cover a surface, as opposed to growing neat, dot-like clumps on a Petri dish. This is a really exciting project that will see if we can harness the natural biofilm-forming abilities of bacteria to function as a kind of glue that will help improve the properties of biodegradable building materials.

Jeff Ive, Technical Director at Adaptavate, said: “Gypsum is the third most used building material and accounts for three percent of UK carbon emissions. It is either mined or produced from the waste of coal-fired power plants and is becoming increasingly expensive to produce. Since it is calcium sulfate based, it should also be disposed of with care so as not to harm the environment.

“Our Breathaboard is a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to gypsum-based plasterboard and could make a real difference in the carbon emissions of the construction industry.

“We are delighted to be working with the University of Bath to further develop this product. “

– This press release was originally published on the University of Bath website

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