Academician Marsel Bikbau: promoting Russian innovations instead of buying abroad

Academician Marsel Bikbau: promoting Russian innovations instead of buying abroad
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Director General of the Moscow institute for material sciences and efficient technologies Marsel Bikbau explained why innovations are too slow to reach the construction ground

Director General Of the Moscow institute for material sciences and efficient technologies, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Academy of Ecology, Human Security and Nature, New York Academy of Sciences, professor of European University, PhD. in Chemistry Marsel Bikbau answers the questions of our magazine.

— Mr. Bikbau, how would you assess the technology level in Russia’s construction industry?
— Its technological infrastructure is at the level of 70-80’s of the last century. Sorry to say, that our enterprises became pawns of imperfect and obsolete technologies. We can word it differently: we’ve fallen victims of so-called novelties – technologies, materials, constructions which are promoted to Russia by the West. And the aim is evident – not to allow our revival.
Here’s a simple example. A man should live in warmth. And a whole industry of heat-insulating materials has been created. But it’s not the only task – to warm up. It is necessary for a man to stay healthy, so the materials used in the construction of housing and offices shouldn’t cause sickness and shorten the life of grown-ups and children. And we have a really critical situation with the production and application of heat-insulating materials in Russia. The market is over-topped with so called efficient insulators. Production, technologies and materials that have long been considered harmful, ecologically unfriendly and short-lived (first of all, foam polystyrene) have flooded the country. Besides, they are inflammable, capable of killing everything alive in seconds should they catch on fire.
Do we need this? I think it all is the work of those “wellwishers” who want Russia to become their raw-material appendage. To leave about 30 million for oil and gas-pipeline service and to send the rest to nowhere.
The adoption in 1979 of the Construction Norms & Regulations in energy efficiency, though timely, turned out to be harmful for people’s health and life. And still our country is a rare example in the solution of heat-insulation problems.

— What do you mean?
— There is a wonderful material — claydite gravel. What’s that? Burnt clay: 100% ecologically clean material, durable, with perfect insulating characteristics and it is fire secure.
There are vast raw material stocks for its production in Russia (thanks to nature) — expansive clay. In the USSR claydite gravel was produced in volumes dozens of times prevailing world production. There were 460 plants producing it, more than 80% of all housing was constructed with the use of claydite gravel. There were two kinds of products: haydite concrete slabs and blocks. Its performances are great: the density is on average 400 kg per 1 cubic meter. Correspondingly, the heat-insulation rate bulk-dry is about 0.10.
The cement factor for haydite concrete items was about 350 kg per 1 m3 of haydite concrete. But our construction industry produced haydite blocks and panels with a density of 1200 kg per 1 m3.
Every particle of claydite gravel was sunk in sand-cement mortar in volume proportion of 1:1. It significantly worsened heat-insulating properties of the walls and made buildings much heavier. To correspond with energy saving norms the width of the walls was to be 1.5-2 m. Of course, it is too much. And in 1979 haydite concrete was in fact reduced. Output volumes were reduced greatly, and consequently the production of claydite gravel decreased. There are only 230 plants in the country now – twice as few as in the Soviet period.

— How is the technology to be updated to get haydite blocks with good energy efficiency performances. Is there anything new?
— I’m just coming to it. The solution of the problem turned out very simple. To receive energy efficient heat-insulating material based on claydite gravel, I used a unique method of capsulation in cement. By this technology, claydite gravel is covered thinly (0.1 – 0.2 mm) with a cement binding substance. We’ve got a remarkable solid, having excellent heat-insulating properties and definite bearing capability.
I called the new technology and material “capsimat”. Its density is 500—600 kg per 1 m3, cement factor is about 100—120 kg. The technology of claydite gravel capsulation and the equipment for its production were created. Claydite gravel is bound by the cement grout in the point of contact, and the rest of the volume is filled with air. Capsimat may be efficiently used as an insulator for self-supporting in situ walls, for the production of large construction blocks.

— How widely is your revolutionary technology used in Russia?
— It has worked for more than 25 years: the first house to feature this technology was built in 1988, and in total more than a thousand houses were built in different regions. The houses built in this technology are rapidly erected, cheap and energy-saving. And there are neither imported nor domestic harmful “efficient insulators”. For example, the cost of 1 m2 of the house with the total area of 540 m2 in Kaliningrad region was only 9600 rubles.
We use two of our own technologies: Tube Confined Concrete and capsimat in situ walls. Twice as little fuel is used for heating such a house, consequently people living in it pay twice less for heating. Besides, the walls of such houses “breathe”, thus we completely solved the problem of people’s oxygen deficiency.

— What other developments can lead the Russian construction industry to the new level?
— The developments of our institute on large-scale implementation are capable of making our country one of the first in the world. I’m not boasting, it’s a fact supported by investigations. Only one thing is needed – the will of the state. And those who implement them must be professional technicians but not “efficient managers” (God forbid). Skilled workers are necessary.

Our institute has designed and implemented a number of innovation technologies which are to be used in construction on a large scale. They are the already mentioned capsimat (macro-capsulation technology), nano-cement (nano-capsulation technology), shell pigments, fire-resistant plastic, phenol-free artificial wood, fire-resistant coverings, dual-usage materials and so on.
That’s what must be used in and promoted to the Russian construction industry. And yet we buy abroad like Papuans.

— I’d rather not ask you about the industry science not to kill the mood…
— Well… The construction science is in hot water. But still it is possible to save the situation by teaching young people innovations, instead of old knowledge. The construction industry must get well-trained, qualified professionals.

— I suppose, you as a world famous scientist may feel offended when your discoveries and developments fail to achieve significant demand?
— I have a philosophic attitude to life. You know the Chinese have a curse: “may you live in interesting times”. And we are living in these times…
But I’m proud that our institute has for 27 years managed to implement many of my projects. Except one: I haven’t solved the problem of getting a superconducting material working at normal temperature. I’m not a constructor; I’m a physicist, a materials scientist. And I want to write books on all new materials, structures and technologies for the country. I am a patriot – this is not the one who doesn’t steal (as our President said once). A patriot is a man who serves the country with all his knowledge, talent and force. And I believe that Russia will gain prosperity.

— Thank you for a very interesting and free hearted talk. I wish success to you personally and to your institute!