(Flickr photo, "Ankor Wat at Sunrise" is by Jon^2 - ceramic cement was used in the construction of the Ankor Wat)
Host intro: In this segment of Our Northwest Building Green, Sueann Ramella reports on an ancient building material which competes with concrete, and may be easy on the environment.
Sueann Ramella: It almost sounds too good to be true: a product as strong as cement, but which releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during production. It is a fire
Robert Barnstone: Ceramic cements are an acid based chemical reaction that creates an artificial stone. n nature we see these kinds of things in a shell. We also see it in buildings like Angkor Wat [the temple complex in Cambodia], which is a thousand years old and made of ceramic cement.
Ramella: Because of its longevity and stability, ceramic cements are used to store nuclear waste.
Barnstone: They realize that this is a fantastic material, not only to contain nuclear waste but to work as a normal concrete.
And when these homes are no longer needed:
Barnstone: You can grind it up and throw it in the compost, because it is food grade material.
Ramella: There is, however, an issue to overcome before ceramic cement becomes widely available: raw material. It’s made from a combination of acid, magnesium and mono potassium phosphate. This rock is found only in a few places on earth. Mono potassium phosphate is used in fertilizer, so the ethanol boom has increased its demand and price. But Barnstone offers a unique solution to the problem.
Barnstone: We can get the mono potassium phosphate out of waste water treatment plants, which gives us a source in every town. We have to figure out a way to precipitate the acids out of the waste water treatment plant, and with Eric Coats over at the University of Idaho we are trying to figure out whether we can have an amoeba take out the mono potassium phosphate, and use it as a storage fat and then harvest those animals.
Ramella: He also suggests industrial waste streams, like pig farms, as a source for the acids needed to make ceramic cements.
Barnstone: If we can separate the manure from the urine through a grating, then we end up with urine, and we take those acids and make this kind of cement.
Ramella: This process
For more information on ceramic cements, visit Our Northwest at nwpr.org. I’m Sueann Ramella.