At some point the question becomes, what problems can’t beer solve? According to an article on the New Scientist, adding a little spent grain to regular old red clay bricks can dramatically improve the insulating powers of said bricks.
From the New Scientist post:
Bricks are often impregnated with polystyrene as a way to enhance their heat-trapping abilities. This is appealing, because the bricks remain strong, and they can be built into energy-efficient buildings, says Eduardo Ferraz of the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar in Portugal. However, EU restrictions on carbon emissions have made it expensive to incorporate polystyrene and other synthetic materials into bricks.
Ferraz and his colleagues have now shown that brewery grains can be mixed into clay bricks to enhance their ability to trap heat, without compromising strength.
We’ve chronicled a couple other innovative ways breweries and entrepreneurial environmental startups are taking advantage of brewing byproducts, and as craft brewing continues to grow, there will no doubt be other opportunities to put spent grain to work. When it comes to insulating bricks, the study shows that a clay paste that is 5 percent spent grain can maintain a brick’s usual strength while reducing heat loss by nearly 30 percent. The grains make a more porous final product, which traps more air and increases heat retention.
One thing could stand in the way of using this process, though: the smell. Bill Daidone of the Acme Brick Company, one of the largest brick manufacturers in the US, says his lab abandoned experiments because the stench of the moist grains was overpowering. “We opened up the bucket and it was terrible,” he says. This problem vanishes once the bricks are fired, though, says Ferraz.
This could be a huge advancement for the brick industry. If any readers out there are located near a brick manufacturer, it might be time to invite them over for a pint or two (with your iPad on the bar conveniently opened to this article).