University of Cape Town Students Make First Bio-bricks from Urine


Students from the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Cape Town have made the first ever bio-bricks from human urine. The phenomenal creations were unveiled earlier in this week, and were developed mainly by Suzanne Lambert and Vukheta Mukhari.

More Insights Into the Bio-bricks Creation By Students From UCT

Both students were supervised by Dr. Dyllon Randall, and this creation highlights a significant landmark in the field of waste recovery. The bricks were created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation. Although the process is very similar to how seashells are formed, it is not exactly the same, according to Dr. Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer in the field of water quality engineering at the university.

The process starts with loose sand that is colonized with bacteria to produce urease. This is an enzyme that breaks down urea in the urine, thus producing calcium carbonate. This entire process takes place through a complex reaction. The sand is cemented into the desired shape, be it a columnar structure, or a brick-shaped parallelepiped.

Dr. Dyllon and this two students have been working hard for the past few months in the laboratory testing various bio-brick shapes and materials for their tensile strengths to produce the innovative building material. One of students, Vukheta Mukhari, who also is a civil engineering honors student, is also being co-supervised by Professor Hans Beushausen, who also is from the same department. The main work done by Beushausen is to test the products properly, and determine if they can produced in mass quantities.

Regular bricks are kiln-fired at a temperature of about 1400 degree Celsius, and also produce huge quantities of carbon monoxide. However, the bio-bricks can be made at room temperatures, thereby eliminating the possibility of creating them in kilns and other such setups. The strength of the product can be decided depending on the requirement.

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