Beer and brick have both been essential to humanity for thousands of years, dual pillars that helped us build the societies we know today. Now, scientists have combined them, fortifying bricks with grains left over from breweries to create bricks that keep a building better insulated. Turns out beer really can keep you warm on a cold day.
Research engineers found that bricks made with 5 per cent spent brewing were nearly 30 per cent better insulators, and just as strong as traditional bricks. The improved thermal performance comes from the tiny pockets of air trapped in the clay when the grains are mixed in. Polystyrene pellets achieve the same effect, and are used in some bricks currently. But synthetics cost money to produce, while spent grains are either fed to livestock or, more often, sent to a landfill. And beer's worldwide popularity means there's a nearly limitless supply of leftovers ripe for the taking.
There is one significant drawback, however: the funky stench of moist, fermented grain. The smell disappears once the bricks have been dried in a kiln, but during production the smell was so overwhelming some researchers abandoned the experiment.
Still, a significant improvement in thermal efficiency, requiring nothing more than beer leftovers, could be tempting enough for brickmakers to hold their noses. Perhaps soon your house will fight off winter's chill just like you do — with the delicious fortification of a golden brew. [Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering via New Scientist]
Image: Shutterstock / Vladislav Gurfinkel