Expo 2020 Dubai: Engineers showcase brick inspired by bird's nest using upcycled plastic waste

It provides ten times better insulation than traditional clay bricks


A Staff Reporter

Published: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 1:11 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 1:19 PM

A new brick, believed to be the first-of-its-kind, made from domestic upcycled plastic waste, is currently being showcased by De Montfort University (DMU). The educational institution is the founding partner of the UK Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020.

Created by Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, senior lecturer mechanical engineering at DMU, the brick has proven to provide ten times better insulation than traditional bricks made from clay.

It has been created using 3D printing and lattice architecture technologies, which involves criss-crossing strips of the plastic materials to form a grid or weave.

The design of the brick is inspired by nature, after Dr Kandan examined the structure of the Baya weaver bird’s nest, renowned for its elaborately woven construction.

“The Baya weaver bird’s nest’s ingenious construction gives it excellent thermal insulation and mechanical properties for inhabitation,” explained Dr Kandan.

“Inside there is a central nesting chamber, which makes it the ideal micro-climate for inhabitation. By replicating this structure, we have manufactured a brick that improves energy efficiency of modern buildings and therefore can reduce carbon footprint.”


PhD student, Saad Alqahtani, who resides in Riyadh, and works as an engineer for Saudi Standards Metrology and Quality Organisation, accompanied Dr Kandan to carry out controlled experiments on the plastic brick.

To test its thermal insulation characteristics, the brick was placed in a hot-box calorimeter – a piece of equipment used to measure the U-value of an object, which can be set up to simulate the regulatory standard for buildings, explained the professor. U-value is a measure of the flow of heat through an insulating or building material: the lower the U-value, the better the insulating ability.

The results showed the new design delivered an impressive U-value of 0.25 Watts per Metre Kelvin (W/m²K). This is 10 times more effective than a clay brick, which delivers an average of 2.94 W/m²K.

Traditionally, a range of building blocks are required to achieve the regulatory standard U-value, however, the newly designed plastic brick can achieve this on its own.

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