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Silicate Research Unit

Silicate ceramics

The Silicate Research Unit is firmly rooted in Ceramics. However, its research extends beyond materials that purely fit within the 'standard' classification of ceramic materials. Research interests involve related materials such as Glass, Refractory Concretes and Concrete itself. The common or unifying ‘sub-material’ found within all these materials is Silica – hence the term 'Silicate Research'.

The Silicate research unit was established in 2006 by David Binns and Alasdair Bremner. Through testing Binns and Bremner found their individual research not only had similar philosophical elements, but technical compatibility. Both areas of research involved the use of silicate-based materials and have since been the starting point for several collaborative ‘live’ projects, combining the functional and aesthetic properties of a wide range of silicate-bearing materials; ceramic, glass and concrete. Projects are often interdisciplinary, employing design, material science, sustainability, waste management and conservation.

The broad aims of the unit are to combine materials and processes, craft and industry, in order to challenge existing narratives of form, surface and material, thereby extending the aesthetic and functional repertoire of these materials.

The Silicates Research Unit Works in areas across design including ceramics, glass and concrete, with extensive experience in recycling silicate materials.

Specific areas of research include the Aesthetic of Waste Project where the team are exploring how glass and ceramic wastes are combined within a fusing process to develop sustainable materials with unique aesthetic qualities.

Potential applications include interior and exterior tiling, decorative facing brick and surface material, including kitchen work surfaces. The unit is currently working with Recycling Lives Lancashire and the research is moving towards commercial manufacturing. The team also have expertise with refractory concrete castable materials and are exploring its use in interior design applications.

The body of research undertaken by Binns and Bremner within the UCLan Silicates Research Unit, has contributed in a number of ways to the aesthetic and creative development of silicate-based materials, within the fields of studio craft practice and more recently, sustainable architectural/construction materials.

Binns initial research into adapting clay bodies offers artists and designers a means of broadening the aesthetic vocabulary of ceramics, without any reliance on traditional surface treatments such as glaze.

The new Eco-material developed by Binns & Bremner possesses the following significant sustainable characteristics, which set it apart from other ‘sustainable’ materials:

  • Made from between 97 – 100% recycled waste
  • Converts ‘low value’ waste into a ‘high value’ product
  • Avoids any cementitious or synthetic polymers, common to many current ‘green’ composite products
  • Low levels of embodied energy and carbon emission
  • Lower firing temperatures than conventional ceramic tiles
  • Utilises locally sourced waste (avoiding excessive transportation of raw materials)
  • All manufacturing waste (trimmings, sludges) can be re-introduced into the raw material input stream (Zero Waste, Closed Loop Manufacturing)
  • Can be recycled at end of life and re-introduced into the raw material input steam (Cradle to Cradle Design Paradigm, End of Life Manufacturing).

The project offers a number of outcomes that have significant impacts across three main areas: economic, environmental and social, all increasing as commercial activity develops over time.

Economic impact

Mass manufacturing of the new Eco-material through the spin-out company will generate income, tax revenues and create manufacturing jobs within the UK. In the first year of trading the spin-out company will process approximately 200 tonnes of CRT lead bearing glass. By the end of year two the company forecasts processing to be approximately 550 tonnes with net profits of £345,000. The longer term objective of the spin out company will be to expand production in the UK. Ultimately, the company intend exploiting the technology in collaboration with other geo-strategic partners, delivering global economic impact. The potential economic benefits will further increase following granting of a full European and worldwide patent.

Environmental impact

The project offers a number of environmental impacts. Firstly, by offering another solution to the ever-increasing demand for sustainable building products – utilising low value waste streams for the production of a high-value product. The material offers architects and designers a sustainable alternative to products such as clay tiles and stone cladding; products derived from non-replenishable virgin materials. Furthermore, the project addresses the considerable global problem of the safe recycling of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) waste glass; designated by the Environment Agency as hazardous waste.

Successful commercialisation of the technology will divert CRT glass away from landfill in the UK and reduce the transport of hazardous waste across borders, from the western world to the developing world; offering huge environmental benefits. The process also makes use of Vitrified Ceramic and Glaze waste from the tile and sanitary ware industry, various quarry waste streams and contaminated waste container glass (bottles and jars etc.); a significant proportion of these inert, low value materials being currently consigned to landfill.

Other Environmental impacts include:

  • Use of locally sourced waste, avoids excessive fuel consumption and carbon emissions, through global transportation of raw materials;
  • Offers a methodology for recycling of ceramic materials within both industrial and studio craft environments;
  • Fulfilling UK & EU directives that are introducing legislation that demands increased use of recycled materials within construction projects;
  • Can be franchised out to ceramic manufactures worldwide, as a method for utilising their waste for the production of environmentally friendly alternatives to their standard product ranges.

The environmental benefits offer impacts to the following stakeholders:

  • The CRT and post-consumer glass recycling industries
  • The ceramic & glass industries
  • Waste management and disposal
  • Sustainable building materials industry
  • Regional development
  • Government agencies including the Environment Agency, WRAP and DEFRA.

Social impact

Project partner Recycling Lives run an award winning Social Responsibility programme that offers a safety net for vulnerable and marginalised members of society, including education, training and work experience, for the homeless and long-term unemployed. RL are providing two operatives to assist the Research Team in running the pilot plant, drawn from RL’s Social Responsibility programme.

As production is scaled up, increased economic and commercial activity will significantly increase employment and skill development.

Binns, D., 2012. A Methodology For Recycling Ceramic Waste – an investigation of the creative potential of re-cycled glass and ceramic waste. NCECA conference book – Seattle, USA

Binns, D., 2011. ‘WASTE & PLACE’ – an investigation of the creative potential of re-cycled glass and ceramic waste. Ceramic Arts & Design for a Sustainable Society - Conference Journal. Gothenburg, Sweden Pgs 64-74 ISBN: 9789163381843

Binns, D., Bremner, A., ‘THE AESTHETIC OF WASTE’ A research project that examines mineral waste as a potential alternative to traditional construction materials. Materials World IOM3 Journal (Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining), Volume 18 (2010), No.5, Pgs 32-33.

Binns, D., 2009. ‘Utilizing Ceramic Waste’. SERES09 International Ceramic & Glass Congress Conference Journal. Turkish Ceramic Federation; ISBN 978- 975-94814-7-6

Binns, D., Bremner, A., 2009 ‘THE AESTHETIC OF WASTE’. MADE Magazine. Issue 1.09 (2009) Pgs 18-19, ISSN 1753-2973

Binns, D., 2007. Terre et Verre Fusionnés. La Revue de la Céramique et du Verre. Issue No. 152 (Jan-Feb 2007) ISSN: 0294202X, Pg’s 21 – 23.

Binns, D., 2007., 2006. Aggregates in Ceramic Bodies – a Research Project. Ceramic Technical - International Ceramics Periodical (Australia). Issue No. 23 ISSN: 13244175, Pg’s 57 – 62

‘Object Factory’ – the art of Industrial ceramics (2008 & 07) (exhibition catalogues –Museum of Arts & Design, New York, USA) ISBN 1-890385-19-0 & Gardiner Museum, Toronto) ISBN 978-0-9784999-0-7

Binns,D,. 2012. ‘A methodology for Recycling Ceramic waste – an investigation of the creative potential of re-cycled glass and ceramic waste. In: Harrison,R., 2013. Sustainable Practice in Ceramics. London: A&C Black Publishing. ISNB Pending

Binns,D., 2012. The Aesthetic of Waste – collaborative research exploring the creative & commercial potential of kiln cast re-cycled mineral waste. In: Kettle, A., 2013. Collaboration Through Craft. Bristol Classical Press. ISBN: 0857853910

Binns,D,. 2012. Aggregate additions in Clay Bodies. In: Standon,K., 2013. Additions to Clay Bodies. London: A&C Black. ISBN: 9781408153949

Binns, D., Bremner, A.,2009. Ceramics & Architecture. EKWC Publication ISBN: 9789070666248

David Binns showcased personal ceramic works at Rufford Earth and Fire international Ceramic Fair from 21 to 23 June 2013.

In 2012, Earth and Fire welcomed over 100 ceramicists from across the UK and mainland Europe to Nottinghamshire. In addition to individual artists, there are also a number of trade stands plus university stands showing the work of recent graduates. To complement the selling stalls there is also a full programme of demonstrations and illustrated talks throughout the three days. Students from the Ceramic MA course will also be showing work at the event.

  • David Binns
  • Alasdair Bremmer

Find out more on David Binns Ceramics website