Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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Case Study 9

Bamboo Fibre Reinforced Cement Board for Carbon Sequestration
Gunter Pauli
ZERI Foundation

Keywords: Japan, Indonesia, Columbia, construction materials, bamboo, cement, N S, S S.

Cement board has become a standard construction material in the tropics. The mixing of cement with mineral fibres or synthetic substitutes has evolved into a major industry. Taiheyo Cement, the second largest cement producer in the world, invested in a special research programme in association with the Zero Emissions programme to substitute the mineral and synthetic fibres with natural ones. This has now been successfully implemented.

The cement industry is under tremendous pressure to improve its carbon dioxide balance. The massive production has been partly reduced and marginally offset with reforestation programmes, but the overall balance remains unfavourable. The search for natural fibres, which sequester carbon dioxide, was considered a practical option. Scientists were sceptical, however, since the mixing of organic material (bamboo fibres) with inorganic (cement) has always been difficult. The residual sugars from organic material inhibit the crystallisation of cement, reducing the quality and price performance.

Researchers identified bamboo-specific fungi that would eliminate all sugars after crushing the bamboo. This process saves water and offers a good quality fibre with no residual sugars. The blending of 50% cement with 50% bamboo fibres reverses the carbon dioxide balance. Since the cement board has an expected life of 30 years, the fast growing species like Bambusa vulgaris offers a unique opportunity for the construction industry to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol.

The research was undertaken in Japan, but the first pilot plant was located in Java, Indonesia, just one hour outside Jakarta. The proximity to a cheap and abundant supply of bamboo is critical in the financial viability of the operation. On the basis of this first experience, an improved version of the production technology has been obtained. A second factory is now being planned in Manizales, Colombia, the centre of bamboo forests in Latin America. This permits the fast and pragmatic transfer of technologies developed in Japan to be fine-tuned in Indonesia and then transferred to Latin America.

The use of bamboo fibre has a positive effect on the carbon balance, but it also changes the look of the city. Whereas asbestos or synthetic fibre cement boards were strong, their grey look rendered the horizon of any city unattractive. The wheat-yellow look of the bamboo fibre cement board favourably changes the impression a city offers to the outside world.

Since there are some 1,300 species of bamboo and the material is abundant and easy to grow, the use of bamboo fibre offers numerous benefits. Bamboo forests are known to have a positive influence on the hydrobalance of a region, are effectively used as a measure against soil erosion, and reinstate a natural habitat that dominated the tropical highlands until agricultural and industrial development began one hundred and fifty years ago.

Lessons Learned
This programme demonstrates that there are unexpected opportunities for carbon sequestration. These approaches require innovative biotechnologies such as the effective use of sugar digesting fungi enzymes and the combination of organic and inorganic materials. The programme of Taiheyo Cement has demonstrated that this is not only feasible, it is commercially viable. And even better, the consumer has access to a quality product that leaves a beautiful impression.

ZERI website:

Mr. Noriaki Hayama
Director Research and Development
Taiheyo Cement
Fax: 81-43-498 38 09

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