How old paper can be transformed into a material strong enough to build walls

Rethinking the materials that make your house: mixing shredded paper with a gluing agent, can create a new material as strong as MDFShredded paperUsing materials more wisely is important in an time where society faces serious issues with the world's depleting resources. The UK manages to recycle around 70% of its waste paper and card into new paper products. However, the environmental cost of the wet pulping processes required is not as far below the cost of producing new paper as people might think.

Anthony Crabbe, a reader at Nottingham Trent University's School of Art and Design, had been investigating ways of processing waste paper in its dry state to improve the management of water and increase the lifetime of paper products.

If shredded paper could be coated and pressed together using techniques similar to those in the manufacture of engineered woods like plywood and chipboard, then the resulting recycled paper products would have much longer lifetimes than, say, recycled packaging.

After initial research, we discovered that by combining a mixture of long strands of shredded paper with a sodium silicate gluing agent, which protects against flame and moisture, we could create a new composite which is as strong as MDF (medium density fibreboard).

This paper laminate composite is like chipboard: suitable for interior use, and can be sealed with paint or varnish if used in damp environments. The interior grade version of it can also be recycled back to shredded paper.

The composite is created by mixing the two materials at a ratio of 80% paper and 20% sodium silicate. They are then compressed at high pressures at 90C. To further exploit the material's high stiffness, the panel is then moulded into a ribbed pattern that greatly increases its load bearing capacity.

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