Advanced Materials & Processes

NOV-DEC 2013

Covers developments in engineering materials selection, processing, fabrication, testing/characterization, materials engineering trends, and emerging technologies, industrial and consumer applications, as well as business and management trends

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of material interest Breathing new life into old bricks Making bricks is a very resource- and energy-intensive process. Meanwhile, when existing brick buildings are demolished, most of the resulting debris, which can contain many thousands of whole bricks, is sent to a landfill or crushed. Now, a European Union-funded project called REBRICK developed and demonstrated a new system that automatically sorts demolition waste, separating out bricks for reuse. Bricks can easily last for several centuries, but bricks in demolition waste are simply thrown out or, at best, crushed and used as aggregate material for low grade applications such as sub-base and road construction. The REBRICK system, patented by Gamle Mursten, Denmark, automatically cleans concrete and cement from old bricks so they can be reused in building construction. "By reusing old bricks and transferring their history and applying their character to new buildings, they become tangible examples of the potential that is hidden in demolition debris," says Claus Nielsen of Gamle Mursten. If successful, the new system could deliver an annual waste reduction of 24,000 tons in the project's second year. Image courtesy of Fruggo. Furniture is going green Roger Bateman (left), senior lecturer in furniture design, with student Matt Harding and a piece of 100% biodegradable furniture. A student at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, is creating furniture made from a 100% biodegradable material, which can be composted at the end of its lifespan. Roger Bateman, senior lecturer in furniture design, spent a year working with student Matt Harding on the Biofurniture project, which aims to simplify production of 100% biodegradable furniture. The project, in collaboration with Netcomposites in nearby Chesterfield, started as a study into whether plantbased material could be used to make furniture components, instead of using petrochemicalbased plastics. The resulting product is made entirely from flax and a natural plastic derived from maize, and will eventually decompose. Bateman worked with Netcomposites to exploit a fabric made from flax and the plant-based polymer PLA. Next, he designed furniture products that use the material as structural, lightweight panel components to replace less environmentally-friendly, man-made boards, such as MDF or chipboard. For more information: Roger Bateman,, 0114 225-2631, Throwing out gold? Not anymore thanks to x-ray vision Powerful x-rays can now be used to rapidly and accurately detect gold in ore samples, thanks to a new technique developed by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia. Working with Canadian company Mevex, CSIRO conducted a pilot study that shows that gamma-activation analysis (GAA) offers a much faster, more accurate way to detect gold than traditional chemical analysis methods. GAA works by scanning mineral samples, typically weighing around half a kilogram, using high-energy x-rays similar to those used in hospitals. The x-rays activate any gold in the sample, and the activation is then picked up using a sensitive detector. According to project leader, James Tickner, CSIRO's study showed that this method is two-to-three times more accurate than the standard industry technique "fire assay," which requires samples to be heated to 1200°C. Tickner explains that a gold processing plant may only recover between 65-85% of gold present in mined rock. Given that a typical plant produces around AUD $1 billion of gold each year, this means hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of gold is going to waste. One major benefit of GAA is that it is easily automated, allowing for much quicker analysis of ore samples. It is also more sustainable—no use of heavy metals such as lead is required. It is also very adaptable. "While most of the work we've done has been based on the gold industry, the technique can be modified for other valuable commodities such as silver, lead, zinc, copper, and the platinum group metals," says Tickner. An 8-kg gold nugget. For more information: James Tickner, 618/8303-8430,, ADVANCED MATERIALS & PROCESSES • NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013 5

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