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Producing super-strength straw building materials

High Performance Compressed Straw Board (HPCSB)

Our project looks at producing super-strength straw building materials that compare favourably with more conventional options. Whilst Compressed Strawboards (CBS) aren’t new, the new project, funded by £300,000 from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, aims to increase their strength by over 50% by removing defects from the raw materials. At present, up to 10 million tonnes of straw is ploughed back into the land or put to low-grade each year, but researchers now hope this figure can be significantly reduced by ‘upcycling’ it into building materials.

We aim to significantly increase the performance of strawboard by focusing in on the details of the raw materials and this includes mechanical, physical, chemical and surface properties which play a crucial role in the product performance.

Our previous research identified the defects that can undermine the strength of the straw as a building material, and the new research will begin to develop novel ways to removing these defects. One of the focuses of the HPCSB project is to develop an efficient and industrially feasible method of removing these defects from straw.

The removal of straw’s defects and the modification of its surface will increase the performance of CSBs. Straw offers a number of advantages over the more traditional wood, as it’s faster growing time makes it much more rapidly renewable, but at present its comparative weakness means it’s rarely used.

Our research is needed to bridge the performance gap between CSBs and conventional building products. This needs to be driven by a combination of creative design, focused academic research, applied technology and stakeholder collaboration/engagement.

super strenght straw materials
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Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Seyed Ghaffar - Dr Seyed Ghaffar is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Civil Engineering. He is a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng, MICE), a Member of the Institute of Concrete Technology (MICT) and a Fellow of Higher Education Academy (FHEA). He is the leader of Additive Manufacturing Technology in Construction Research Group (AMTC). The focus of AMTC is on valorising construction and demolition waste using materials science and 3D printing to achieve the circular economy goals of sustainable construction. Dr Ghaffar, as the Principal Investigator, has been successful in securing a €220K project funded by the H2020 EU Commission on ''Digital fabrication and integration of Material reuse for environmentally friendly cementitious composite building blocks (DigiMat)' 2021-2023. Dr Ghaffar is the Principal Investigator of a £300K project funded by the British Council (Institutional Links) on 'Direct Writing of Cementitious Inks to Scaffolds with Complex Microarchitectures (DiWoCIS)' 2020-2022. He is also the Principal Investigator of a £300K project funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on 'High-Performance Compressed Straw Board (HP-CSB): A New Generation of Building Materials' 2018-2022. Dr Ghaffar's research covers a number of construction materials, with a focus on the development of low carbon technologies suitable for new and retrofitting applications by combining materials sciences and innovative technologies. Dr Ghaffar is the Associate Editor of the Journal of Results in Engineering (Elsevier) and the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Structures and Buildings (ICE Publishing).   During his PhD (2012-2016), Dr Ghaffar was simultaneously working as a research associate on several European research projects, i.e. Grow2Build, VIP4ALL, REWOBIOREF and GELCLAD. Natural fibre composite production, formulation and characterisation are part of Dr Ghaffar's research expertise. In 2015, he was appointed Manager of Grow2Build European Centre of Excellence (Grow2Build), which serves as a permanent focal point for local manufacturers, industries and research centres interested in bio-based building products, providing technical support and innovation for utilisation of bio-based products in the construction industry. Moreover, construction waste management and valorisation (WasteValue) is another of Dr Ghaffar's research interests. This research aims to study the feasibility of the circular economy (cradle to cradle) management of waste and the environmental sustainability of the systems in construction. WasteValue evaluates and analyses current technologies and strategies concerning construction and demolition waste management in the UK.

Related Research Group(s)

Resilient Structures and Construction Materials

Resilient Structures and Construction Materials - RIMS research group brings together material scientists and structural engineers to deliver resilient infrastructure (buildings, bridges etc.) made of sustainable, advanced materials to perform under harsh natural environment and human-induced hazards.

Project last modified 21/06/2021