RPI making use of leftover packaging materials

May 18, 2018 06:47 AM

TROY - RPI is trying to solve a problem that comes after a hurricane or earthquake. After tons and tons of food, water, and supplies are sent to the disaster zone, tons and tons of packaging material are left over.

One building sticks out on the RPI campus. Swaying and squeaking in the wind, it's not made of bricks. It's made of plastic bottles. 

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"These bottles, they interlock side by side," said civil and environmental engineering professor Mohammed Alnaggar.

A company called Friendship Products designed them, but they're leaving it to RPI students to figure out how to actually build something out of them. 

"Basically you're taking material from landfills and putting it in buildings to live for 100 years," Alnagger said.

The idea is to send water or other supplies in the bottles, use it up, then build a structure from the ground up. 

"The bottles look like bricks and also act a lot like bricks in that they work very well in compression especially along the long axis," said architecture major Emily Sulanowski. "But tension and spanning is really not their strong suit."

Architecture majors like Sulanowski are working alongside engineering students in the class. That doesn't happen often at college, but it happens in the real world. 

Plus the structures aren't models that sit on a desk. They have to stand. 

"They could test what would break, what would stand, how feasible older ideas were," said architecture professor Lydia Kallipoliti. "Very literally when they're working with the bottles."

For now, it's just a prototype. But sometime in the future, the work at RPI could mean the materials for house and home come in a 24 pack of water bottles.


WNYT Staff

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