Recycling used and the waste product has been a top agenda for quite some time now but the researchers in the University of Cape Town went one step ahead by making bricks made out of urine, which could compete with normal clay bricks for a number of purposes.
It may sound a little gross at first but overall it is a much safer and environmentally friendly option and it has the same properties of strength as its normal counterpart. Urine is a basic wastewater that is generated and it is a natural product containing lots of urea. The manufacturing method also produces phosphorus as well as nitrogen which are potent fertilizers. The synthesis is also done at room temperature, eliminating the chances of spewing out harmful greenhouse gases.
The process of making involved installing fertilizer synthesizing urinals in the bathrooms of the University and once the urine, from which fertilizer is skimmed out, is collected, it is treated with sand and bacteria. These bacteria have an enzyme called urease which has the ability to break down urea and converting it into a compound which is strong and compact.
These “bio bricks” can be made in multiple shapes, depending on the type of mold used, and the strength depends on the amount of time the bacteria gets to act on it. Reports say it may take up to a week time to get the ideal strength. Though the bricks smell of ammonia initially, it disperses pretty fast.
There are some questions that remain to be answered though. How much will the machine synthesize this bio bricks cost? How to collect a large amount of urine required for mass production. It takes around 5 gallons of urine to make one. Though it is a great initiative in conserving and recycling waste products, once these logistics get ironed out, these biobricks can be used commercially. It has found its appreciation from architects as well, like Mr. John Locke, an architect based in New York.
Susan Lambert, a postgraduate student in the University claims that this process of fabrication is pretty similar to the formation of coral reefs and it is something that Mother Nature has been doing for millions of years.