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Deck the Walls with Renewable Fiber

Gillian Cutter
Gillian Cutter

It's all part of a sustainable makeover of building products. Walls, roofs and decks may soon be made from hemp - the same renewable plant fiber being used in bags, socks and other textiles. Gillian Cutter, a master's degree student in the Department of Structural Engineering, has aligned hemp fibers in sheets, coated them with plant-derived resins and heated and compressed them in order to create strong, lightweight "biocomposites" that she tested and characterized.

Contrary to previous findings, Cutter's research suggests that non-petroleum-based, biodegradable composites are capable of serving as secondary structural elements - such as doors, window frames and wallboards. This work points to a sustainable alternative to a variety of wood, metal, and fiberglass products currently used in the construction industry.

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