The global focus on sustainable materials is intensifying as industries seek eco-friendly alternatives. Among these, the construction sector stands out due to its significant environmental impact, responsible for consuming 50% of global fossil resources, generating 40% of waste, and emitting 39% of CO2 annually. Addressing this, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the Wallenberg Wood Science Center have developed a groundbreaking solution: a 3D printed hydrogel for greener construction.
This innovative material combines nanocellulose, widely used in biomedicine for tissue scaffolding, with algae-derived alginate. The addition of alginate enhances the hydrogel's flexibility, crucial for architectural applications. Malgorzata Zboinska, lead researcher, highlights its versatility and customizable features through digital design and robotic 3D printing, marking a significant leap in architectural materials.
Nanocellulose, sourced sustainably from forestry, agriculture, and paper mills, offers a clear alternative to plastic. Its abundance and versatility make it an attractive choice for eco-friendly construction. Zboinska emphasizes the resource efficiency of 3D printing, minimizing waste and energy consumption. The absence of heat in their robotic printing system further reduces energy usage, demonstrating its environmental benefits.
The material's potential applications range from partitions and panels to wall coverings and tile cladding, promising diverse uses in construction. While its future remains uncertain, the prospects for this eco-friendly material are undeniably bright, offering a sustainable alternative in the construction industry's quest for greener practices.
by Madeleine P.