Popsci.com gives out invention awards every year. I stumbled across their selections from May and found a great product made from a coal by-product, fly ash. Once part of the problem, retired civil engineer Henry Liu turns fly ash into an effective solution, and he’s planning on releasing it this year!
Brick making is an energy intensive process, one that ruins the natural landscape and burns a lot of fuel. Mining requires a quarry that destroys everything that once stood in it’s place, and takes plenty of gallons of deisel to create. Once the raw material is collected, the bricks are fired in 2,000 F kilns that guzzle more fuel and pollute the air. Coal mining may produce energy but is the dirtiest form of it, spewing out tons of CO2 emissions and sulfer dioxide per year. While improvements have been and are being made to clean up the process, little positive news has come from the coal industry in quite some time. Henry Liu’s brick will salvage the waste from coal and use it to fix the brick problem. His one idea will save the world millions of tons of CO2 and millions of gallons of fuel.
The new brick is made without kilns, and without additional mining. Fly ash is collected as waste from coal operations. Henry takes the fly ash, mixes it with water, and stamps with a hydraulic press. The bricks are then put in a hot steam bath to cure. With over eight years of perfecting the strength and performance, his bricks pass national standards with flying colors and are ready for distribution this year. Lets hope the paper work all goes well for him.
A note to brick lovers: Look for the Fly-Ash Brick from Henry Liu. I’ve looked around and found the same idea called Flash Bricks. However, I wasn’t able to find who the inventor of the Flash Bricks is. It might be the same brick. Additional testing has shown the the Fly-Ash Brick performes better than clay bricks on almost every standard. It will be interesting to see how the brick industry adapts.