The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funded a study by a Cambridge University professor which advocated making new cities out of animal or synthetic bone to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The study, which has been widely shared in the media, found that making buildings out of animal bones would likely produce fewer CO2 emissions than concrete or steel buildings. Conventional construction materials account for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Department of Defense has given Cambridge University $6.6 million in grants and financial assistance since 2008.
“The material properties of bone and wood are very similar,” Dr. Michelle Oyen, a professor of engineering at the University of Cambridge, said in a press statement. “Just because we can make all of our buildings out of concrete and steel doesn’t mean we should. But it will require big change.”
Oyens states that small samples of artificial eggshell and animal or synthetic bone take very little energy to produce and could possibly be scaled up, but the costs of doing so are unclear. Small amounts of bone are apparently stronger than steel in some situations and a cubic inch of bone can hold four times the load of an equivalent amount of concrete. The engineering team is now studying bone-like materials so they can be made efficiently.
“I fly back and forth a lot between the UK and the US, and I’d been harbouring a lot of guilt about the effect that had on my carbon footprint. I’d always assumed, as many of us do, that air travel is a huge contributor to carbon emissions,” Oyen continued. “But the truth is, while the emissions caused by air travel are significant, far more are caused by the production of concrete and steel, which of course is what most cities are built from.”
Cambridge has published papers on artificial bone and eggshell materials, but the research on the feasibility of using bone for large-scale building projects hasn’t been academically examined.
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