the green steel of the 21st century
Bamboo is being used increasingly at the building industrie.
At WAF in Singapore, Dirk Hebel has developed a new material made of bamboo fibres mixed with organic resin. He said that bamboo fibre could be used as a more sustainable and far cheaper alternative to steel on construction sites.
“This has the potential to revolutionise our building industry and finally provide an alternative to the monopoly of reinforced concrete,” Hebel said.
Bamboo is also being used increasingly for disaster-relief construction projects, thanks to its strength, low cost and wide availability. Examples include shelters for earthquake victims in Nepal, temporary accomodation for Burmese refugess in Thailand, and flood-resistant housing in Vietnam.
This material, can be pressed into any shape and then sawn or sanded like wood. Formed into rods, the material could potentially replace steel as a reinforcing matrix for concrete with no loss of performance, according to Hebel.
“We can produce a material that in terms of tensile capacity is better than steel,” Hebel said. “Our material is only a quarter of the weight of steel. In terms of strength to weight, it performs better than steel.”
Bamboo, which has extremely high tensile strength, has long been used as a construction material in the developing world. But rather than use bamboo in its natural state, Hebel developed a way of extracting fibres from the plant and mixing it with 10% organic resin to create a mouldable material.
Concrete reinforced with the material has been undergoing testing at a laboratory in Singapore. “Yesterday we had a breakthrough – our testing machine was not able to break the material,” Hebel said.
Unlike timber, bamboo does not require replanting after harvesting. As with other grasses the root system remains in the ground, stabilising the soil while new shoots are generated.