Biomaterials for better building
by KORKY KOROLUK
“Nanotechnology can best be described as the science of the extremely small. Scientists have discovered that engineering materials at the atomic or molecular scale can result in surprising — and very useful — results. So when we’re talking about nanometres, we’re talking a billionth of a metre. An average human hair, for example, is about 80,000 to 100,000 nanometres across. Because of the nano-engineering involved, it may turn out to be possible to add hemp to mortar. So the new bio-aggregates can not only improve the performance of conventional materials, they can also offer new features.
The shiv, which is the core of the hemp stalk, has a porous structure that provides moisture buffering, which helps maintain humidity inside a building at a more constant level. But to achieve that property, the shiv must be treated with hydrophobic resins. The result is that water vapour can travel in and out of the material, but liquid water can’t penetrate it.
“We’re striving to find the delicate balance between applying the right level of coating on the hemp shiv and preserving..its inherent properties, such as porosity,” Taylor says. He adds that any new biomaterials developed must not only be technically feasible but commercially viable as well. So the key question becomes: “How do we adapt the materials to the existing manufacturing processes for conventional materials?”
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