Sustainable bricks made from eco-friendly concrete and seaweed?

Imagine using sustainable bricks that are made out of seaweed, instead of conventional cement? It seems far-fetched, but seaweed harvesting off the Queensland coast could one day make eco-friendly concrete a reality. Can you imagine using sustainable bricks that are made out of eco-friendly concrete and seaweed, instead of cement? A team of researchers from the University of Melbourne is already on the job. They’ve been trying to see if they can create seaweed bricks that are as strong as cement. But why would anyone even bother with that? Seaweed, it turns out, has many uses beyond wrapping sushi and filling our bellies. As nourishing and delicious as this sea vegetable is, it also has the power to serve as an effective carbon sink. This humble plant absorbs and stores high levels of carbon for a long time – blocking it from entering the atmosphere.

Creating sustainable bricks is a headache – so why bother?

Australia uses one billion bricks each year, as well as millions of tonnes of concrete. If this strategy works, it could mean replacing unsustainable cement bricks with low-energy material that safely stores carbon. Functional and eco-friendly concrete, what’s not to like about that? But it’s not easy to create a sturdy and reliable sustainable brick, as the research team discovered. Seaweed expands, so mixing it with any type of solution inflates the concrete and weakens the structure. Not to be discouraged, they added potassium silicate and potassium hydroxide to the solution. This stopped it from swelling and resulted in a sturdy, eco-friendly brick. More research is needed, but this promising start could open new doors for the sustainable construction industry.
Seaweed harvesting sustainable bricks

Seaweed harvesting in Moreton Bay on Queensland’s coast

The Sunshine State could be a key player in all this, as scientists search for the ideal location to build massive seaweed farms for agricultural purposes. Approximately 20-million tonnes of seaweed is produced around the world, but Australia is lagging behind, with zero commercial operations! Researchers want to change that, by setting their sights on regions off the Queensland coast. The Moreton Bay ecosystem, for example, could provide optimal conditions for mass production. If seaweed farms ever get the green light in Australia, it could be some time before they’re up and running, but the potential is endless. We can’t wait to see how the construction industry might benefit from seaweed – one of the fastest growing life forms on the planet. (You can read about other sustainable concrete materials here.)