Researchers at Auburn University are part of an interdisciplinary team seeking to make advancements in future manufacturing, including houses built by 3D printing
An interdisciplinary project linking several Auburn University professors and scientific colleagues will address the harsh reality that affordable housing is out of reach for many Americans living in rural areas.
But the path of this research may lead to viable solutions that would have seemed futuristic just a few years ago: planning advanced manufacturing that helps utilize waste biomaterials, which can then be produced through additive manufacturing – more commonly known as 3D printing – to create homes or buildings. Components.
The study, which covers the disciplines of engineering, chemistry, forest resources and architecture, also draws heavily on the expertise of scientists from its partner institution, the University of Idaho, with Michael Maughan, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, at the helm.
The Auburn-led part of this interdisciplinary project will focus on the development of bio-resin as a raw material for 3D printing, which will be carried out in Idaho. This process will include converting the biomass into chemicals and nanomaterials to help improve the durability of the resin.
Available housing is only a reality for half of households, said Brian Via, Regions Bank professor at Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and school principal Forest Products Development Center. Via is a principal investigator of the new research project funded at approximately $ 3.9 million by the National Science Foundation’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Program.
“The problem of the lack of affordable housing is further compounded for minority groups, who experience twice as much poverty as other populations,” he said.
While seeking solutions to this serious societal problem, the project will also study the environmental impact of conventional concrete and steel used in the construction of traditional buildings compared to high-rise timber buildings, which emit a third to half of the greenhouse gases from these traditional materials, Via said.
“Recently, the United States is turning to solid wood buildings as a first generation material to reduce our carbon footprint,” Via said. “However, advanced manufacturing can help use more waste biomaterials from forest resources which can then be 3D printed into housing or building components.”
The proposed interdisciplinary project, “Development of a circular biobased framework for architecture, engineering and construction using additive manufacturingTargets what is called the advanced manufacturing industry of the future.
“We will be making 3D printed wall panels that can be used in the construction of homes and buildings,” Via said. “This will allow for precise construction in a manufacturing environment using durable materials that can be shipped to the construction site. Thanks to biobased polymers and fibers, we can 3D print construction components that allow recycling at the end of their life.
Member of the Maria Auad research team, Professor W. Allen and Martha Reed at Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and director of the Core polymer and advanced composites in Auburn, said the project relies heavily on the development of sustainable adhesives derived from renewable forest biomass and other waste resources, typically disposed of in landfills.
“The thematic basis of our proposal is to develop innovative materials that will be environmentally friendly, less dependent on the depletion of petroleum resources and will use natural sources or waste with the realization of the environmental impact that the current generation of composite materials has come to the end of their life, ”said Auad.
Member of the Sushil Adhikari team, professor at the College of Agriculture and director of Auburn’s Bioenergy and Bioproducts Center, said it is crucial to find ways to use forest biomass and other agricultural residues to produce resilient buildings with a low carbon footprint.
“In this project, we are developing resins and adhesives from waste while minimizing energy input,” said Adhikari.
Its role is to find ways to produce chemicals using a rapid pyrolysis process – the thermal degradation of high temperature plastic waste in the absence of oxygen – for resin synthesis. It will also train graduate and postdoctoral students who will contribute to research in the circular bioeconomy.
In this research, Maria Soledad Peresin, associate professor of forest biomaterials at the School of Forest and Wildlife Sciences, focuses on the production, characterization and chemical modification of nanocellulose for inclusion in bio-resin formulations to improve the mechanical performance of composites for 3D printing of components of housing and buildings.
Like Adhikari, she is enthusiastic about the effect of this endeavor on the next generation of scientists.
“The project provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to get involved in advanced technologies and sustainability,” said Peresin.
This educational impact is key, Via said, as one of the research efforts is to train a new STEM-based workforce and scientists for this future industry.
Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forest and Wildlife Sciences, commended the team for their efforts.
“This team of researchers from various specialties on the Auburn campus is creating a model for the future of sustainable manufacturing, including viable approaches for the lack of affordable housing and much more,” said Alavalapati. “The inclusion of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those pursuing postdoctoral studies, ensures that these innovations continue and build on each other. ”
Via stressed that supply chain stakeholders will also feel the impact.
“Alabama is the third national producer of woodlands, while Idaho, our partner in the Pacific Northwest, also contributes significantly to the forest products industry,” he said. “However, forest owners often have lower value trees that do not meet the needs of local sawmills for traditional lumber or solid wood such as cross-laminated timber or CLT. Therefore, we hope to develop a new product line for these wood species so that they can be used more efficiently for the benefit of the landowner.
(Written by Teri Greene)