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Research cements replacement

IMAGINE a building material that has all the strength of cement but weighs 25 per cent less and is waterproof, heat resistant and chemical resistant.

It can be moulded with fine feature detail in any colour or texture, is comparable in price with other cement products, plus when produced emits substantially less greenhouse gas.

Far from being a figment of the imagination this new building material, which is predicted to replace all cement products, is expected to be on the market by the end of the year and is being developed and produced in Western Australia.

Sharing the same name as its unique building material, Vitrostone, formed out of Advanced Powder Technology, is entering the exciting end of years of product development research.

Around five months ago, armed with a business plan, Vitrostone successfully managed to get the WA Local Government Superannuation Fund to inject $2 million into the company that kicked off the construction of a production plant at Neerabup.

The company is also pursuing Federal Government funding and another equity investment of $2 million to accelerate the commercialisation of the product.

Vitrostone plans to initially produce paving-type products and has already signed up a WA distributor.

Vitrostone production development manager Raffaele Cammarano said the company was focusing on producing simple products first to get Vitrostone on the market as soon as possible while also developing other applications for the material.

He said there had been few new building materials introduced to the market in the past 20 to 30 years, with most companies focussing on improving existing products.

Vitrostone is an inorganic polymer, a man-made product that shares nearly identical physical properties with granite.

Unlike cement, which contains calcium, silicate and oxygen phases in a crystalline structure, this inorganic polymer is comprised of aluminium, silicate and oxygen phases in an amorphous structure.

Dr Cammarano said the irregular atom structure of vitrostone would ensure the paving products the company produced were completely unique.

“Because it has an amorphous structure it takes on the features of the mould to fine detail, to the point it can be made to look like it has been polished,” he said.

The significant weight difference to the traditional cement paver meant that there would be flow-on benefits for transport, storage and the end user, Dr Cammarano said.

There are many potential uses for Vitrostone including tiles, kitchen benchtops and wall claddings.

Dr Cammarano said he did not expect Vitrostone to take the world by storm overnight. His more conservative projections for whole scale market acceptance of Vitrostone are 20 to 50 years in the future. 

However, he said the product offered significant environmental benefits.

“For each tonne of cement produced a tonne of carbon dioxide is produced,” Dr Cammarano said.

“Not many people are aware that 8 per cent to 10 per cent of all carbon dioxide produced worldwide comes from the production of cement.”

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