Multidisciplinary team receives grant to develop sustainable, off-grid construction materials
MANHATTAN — Scott Thompson, associate professor in the Alan Levin Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Kansas State University, is leading a team that received a nearly $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to innovate a technique for additively manufacturing raw earth materials sustainably and in any location.
Thompson will lead the two-year project, "Off-grid construction via sustainable compression curing of vegetable oil-impregnated sediments," alongside co-principal investigators Genevieve Baudoin, associate professor of architecture, and Karin Goldberg, associate professor of geology. Two faculty members at Georgia Southern University are also part of the multidisciplinary team.
Awarded through the NSF's Future Manufacturingprogram, the project aims to use solar-powered compression and curing techniques to 3D-print building materials made of tung oil and local terrain for sustainable, raw earth construction. In addition, the team will develop an alternate means for building remotely in any condition or location, even the surface of the moon.
"This research responds to a growing need to innovate and overcome remote construction constraints exacerbated by urban-to-rural migration and supply chain disturbances driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change," Thompson said.
The project will also create more opportunities for K-State students to get involved in interdisciplinary research.
"Undergraduate and graduate students will gain valuable experience by working as part of a cross-disciplinary research team, while hundreds of other students will benefit from guest lectures given by project-affiliated faculty outside their department or program," Thompson said. "The goal is to broaden students' perspectives and creativity so they can become better innovators, ultimately contributing to the advancement of U.S. manufacturing capabilities on a global scale."