Concerned about the volume of soft drink bottles thrown in the waterways of Manaus, capital of the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas, physics professor Newton Lima decided to make use of them in an academic project.
He and four students of the civil engineering course at the Lutheran University of Brazil (Ulbra) made the waste into a scientific research project. The result is the "PET brick", made out of quartz sand, cement and the bottle.
PET or polyethylene terephthalate is a plastic developed in 1941 by Rex Whinfield and James Dickson, two British chemists. The product is commonly used by Coca-Cola and other soft drink producers.
The PET bottle is used whole, closed, with its top on, and is covered by a layer of sand and cement. To produce the brick, Lima and his students developed a wooden mould. Once ready, various tests took place to know whether it would resist being put into a construction.
"Resistance tests show that, with the bottle top on, the brick rarely breaks. It was proved to be within the norms established by the Brazilian Association of Technical Norms (ABNT)," stated the professor.
But the PET bottle is not used just to cover space and to stop the product from cluttering the waterways. The air within the bottle also serves as an insulator, making the brick perfect for hot regions like Manaus, where the temperature regularly exceeds 40º Celsius.
The idea was so successful that Ulbra itself is offering a course to teach masons how to set up the electric installation when using the PET brick. Apart from that, an architecture student at the university is developing her end of course project on the matter. Her objective is to build a house using the bricks. Just to give an idea, 1,500 bricks are necessary to build 25 square meters.
According to the Ulbra professor, there are already people interested in selling the bricks, but no agreement has been established yet. What would be interesting, according to Lima, would be joining some students from the administration course at the university to prepare a business plan for the project to become even more complete.
"Many people come here to learn about it, to see how the brick works, how it is made," stated the professor. "But there is still nothing concrete into making the product commercial." The professor has already asked for a patent for the brick.
However, more than making the PET brick into a commercial product, professor Lima dreams of seeing it as a key item in the construction of low-income housing.
"Here, in Manaus, constructions in the poorer neighborhoods are made out of wood, plastic and cardboard. As it is hard to make the bricks, we could establish work groups to build houses out of them.
In this point of view, it is a doubly promising project," stated Lima. "Apart from studying to help reduce the waste in the waterways, we could build more low-income housing."
Anba – www.anba.com.br