Dr. Michelle Oyen of Cambridge University's Department of Engineering is trying to reduce the carbon emissions created from manufacturing concrete and steel by creating an alternate building material made of artificial bone and artificial eggshells, Cambridge University reports.
Both the artificial eggshells and bone are made from proteins and minerals, just like the real things. To make the material, "the mineral components are 'templated' directly onto collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the animal world," the university says. The process takes place at room temperature, so the carbon emissions from creating the artificial material are drastically less than the emissions produced from manufacturing concrete and steel which takes place at high temperatures. Though the material is being produced on a small scale now, Oyen and her team are confident that their manufacturing process could be used to create the building material in the future.
Currently, there are a few obstacles in the way of making eggshell and bone houses for the masses. One issue is the animal-based collagen. Oyen is currently working on finding a non-natural collagen or synthetic polymer that could be used instead of the natural collagen. Second, "the construction industry is a very conservative one," Oyen says. "All of our existing building standards have been designed with concrete and steel in mind. Constructing buildings out of entirely new materials would mean completely rethinking the whole industry."
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