Sand Lab: Transforming Desert Sand into Glass

Sand – An (In)-finite Resource? Sand is one of the world’s most sought after resources. It is the megastar of the industrial and digital era, with wide-ranging applications from the production of concrete, to glass, computers, detergents, and even toothpaste. Our culture is literally built on sand. Unfortunately, sand is also finite: Since a couple of years ago, the global demand for sand has not been met naturally through erosion and sedimentation.

Laser Sintered Sand Structures (L3S). Laser Sintered Sand Structures (L3S) at the Sand Lab of the Assistant Professorship of Architecture and Construction Dirk E. Hebel at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore emerge from material science and rapid prototyping technologies. The application of selective laser sintering to sand material yields new, lightweight, and durable glass structures. The computer controlled laser technology further allows the design of the mesostructural geometry of the material, enabling material properties to be customised, which also aids the distribution of materials. To date, sintering of silica and ceramics has produced high-precision casting moulds and high-tech materials for aerospace and medical use. In the digital design and fabrication of components, sintering allows bio-mimetic design imitating lightweight bone and cartilage structures.

Laser Sintered Sand Structures (L3S) can be developed from any type of sand, including the abundant and previously unusable desert sand. Desert sand is smaller in grain size and therefore has a higher laser absorption rate and requires lower energy input than larger sized conventional sand. The sintered material is also higher in de nition and resolution. The range of L3S applications are vast. Highly speci c materials can be engineered to meet required attributes such as weight, strength, and durability in the  eld of aerospace, automotive, medical, and construction industries.

related: 

Constructing Sand

Dirk E. Hebel, Aurel von Richthofen: Emerging selective laser sintering technology applied to an untapped resource – retrieved sand – opens new possibilities in light-weight durable and recyclable construction materials at FCL’s Sand Lab.

Sand: an (in)finite Resource?

The E4D Summer School 2016 with the topic of "Sand: an (in)finite Resource?" is organised by ETH Global in collaboration with the Chair of Architecture and Construction of ETH Zurich Assistant Professor Dirk E. Hebel, Aurel von Richthofen and the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at TU Delft, The Netherlands.

Coordinator FCL

Aurel von Richthofen has been appointed Module Coordinator at the Chair of Architecture and Construction at the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in Singapore since September 2014. He will coordinate the research done at the Advanced Fibre Composite Materials laboratory (also known as Bamboo Lab) and contribute to the interdisciplinary Tropical Town project in Indonesia.

Baumeister Journal: Oman - the Anti-Dubai?

Aurel writes about urbanisation trends and sustainability in Oman in Germany's oldest architecture magazine - Baumeister. The conservative development in Muscat is seen in contrast to fast paced Dubai. The specificities of urban sprawl, land allocation system, destruction of landscape are descrtibed as well as typical modern villas and sub-urban settlement patterns. The article concludes with a manifesto for sustainable urbanism adapted to Oman.