University of East London and Tate & Lyle Sugars Develop Sugarcrete – Carbon-Cutting Bricks from Sugarcane Waste

Photo Credits | Sugarcrete™

The University of East London, in collaboration with Tate & Lyle Sugars, has spearheaded the development of carbon-cutting bricks made from the waste products of sugarcane. These innovative bricks are created using Bagasse, a fiber waste product generated during the sugar cane production process after extracting sugar sap. The material has been nominated for the Earthshot Prize, endorsed by one of last year’s winners, Notpla. 

  Sugarcane growth is renowned for its rapid CO2 to biomass conversion rate, which makes it up to 50 times more efficient than forestry. Additionally, there is an abundance of Bagasse, with approximately 600 million tonnes produced annually as a byproduct of the sugar cane industry’s nearly two billion tonnes of production. Bagasse already finds use in paper production, and the introduction of sugarcrete aims to expand its range of applications. 

 This material demonstrates significant potential as a sustainable solution for construction. Repurposing this waste product is especially promising for communities in the global south that produce substantial amounts of sugarcane. These countries often import environmentally detrimental, expensive, and carbon-intensive construction materials. For instance, in Cuba, a major sugar-producing country, a concrete block costs $3, which is a considerable expense considering the average monthly salary of $148. By utilizing agricultural by-products, sugarcrete provides a sustainable, ultra-low carbon alternative to existing high carbon materials. 

Sugarcrete combines Bagasse with tailor-made sand-mineral binders to produce bricks that have only 20% of the carbon footprint associated with traditional bricks. Over a two-year period, the bricks were developed and tested at UEL, revealing that they are four to five times lighter than concrete and have a curing time of just one week compared to the 28 days required for concrete production. Moreover, the material possesses excellent mechanical, acoustic, fire, and thermal properties. It has undergone rigorous testing for fire resistance (ISO 1716:2021), compressive strength (ASTM C39), thermal conductivity (Hot-Box method), and durability (BS EN 927-6), conducted by the research team at UEL. 

The initial practical application of sugarcrete was undertaken in collaboration with Grimshaw architects. Together, they developed a demountable floor slab composed of interlocking sugarcrete blocks. These blocks are both reusable and fire-resistant, offering the flexibility to be assembled or extended in new or existing structures, thereby replacing both brick and concrete. 

The upcoming application of these blocks involves the construction of a school in India, situated in close proximity to a sugarcane plantation. The school will feature one or two storeys and will utilize a high compression strength version of sugarcrete with a silica binder in its composition. This project showcases the potential of sugarcrete to be employed and reused in various new or existing structures. 

Read more on Firstplanit

Share this Article