Polish scientists have used volcanic stone to create a highly insulating and resistant material that they say could soon replace traditional building supplies – and would be cheaper, too.
Researchers at the University of Technology of Krakow have developed the artificial stone from volcanic tuff, itself made up of consolidated ash. They mixed the tuff with other components such as alkaline solutions and water glass.
The team says the resulting material, known as an inorganic geopolymer, is almost as hard as granite, another volcanic rock.
Professor Janusz Mikula, who led the research, said the material’s ability to withstand heat is what makes it different from other geopolymers available.
“Imagine a fire in your house. The temperature rises up to 800 or 900 degrees Celsius,” Mikula said.
“Under normal conditions, traditional building materials and even polymers begin to lose strength. Traditional building materials begin to disintegrate, to crack. In contrast, our polymer won’t crack or scatter, instead its strength will increase.”
The scientists say these unique properties could make it an ideal building material, but it could also have other uses. It could for instance replace the polystyrene foam used in insulation.
The geopolymer also has an unusual porous structure, allowing it to ‘breathe’: it absorbs water, regulating humidity and even absorbing smells.
This could make it a suitable coating for metals, to prevent corrosion. The researchers say the new material could even be used in aeronautics, for example to cover elements of a spacecraft.