In a time a finite resources, the demand for metals is coming at a greater material and environmental cost. How can design respond to these circumstances? This project explores the aesthetic and functional potential of industrial byproducts from the mining and metallurgical sectors.
As populations grow, so too does the demand for raw materials. Metals are no exception. The electric and renewable future we strive towards as a society has discomforting material implications; in a wind turbine alone, nearly 5 tonnes of copper are needed. But your need for these metals comes at a cost. Red mud for instance, also known as bauxite residue, is a byproduct of refining alumina from bauxite ore. Each part of aluminium results in the byproduction of 2.5 parts red mud, totaling at 150 million tonnes per annum that are disposed of in giant pits. Working with scientists and ceramicists alike, this team of recent Royal College of Art graduates developed ways of using red mud as a ceramic body and even a glaze. The team then continued exploring byproduct slags from copper and steel industries as cement alternatives. Known as "geopolymers", these cements can outperform portland cement at a fraction of the carbon footprint. Given the thermal resistance and metal content of the material, the team also uncovered ways of enameling the pieces in a matter of minutes, representing huge energy savings over ceramic glazes.