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Since concrete takes up so much of our built environment, there's a very good reason to find more sustainable, less damaging alternatives. These researchers are putting sand to the test.

Sand is the hidden ingredient of design. It’s used to make glass and computer chips, and to bulk and strengthen the concrete used in many of the buildings around us. Though it seems like an abundant resource, sand miners are depleting the gritty, building-grade sand faster than it can be replenished, which has led to a shortage that puts both the environment and industry at risk.

A new company called Finite is looking to make use of the fine-grained sand that has long been overlooked for industrial use because of its smoothness. Scientists from Imperial College London say they have developed a composite material that binds desert sand and other fine powders to create a concrete-like material.

The researchers claim their material is as strong as traditional bricks and concrete, yet biodegradable with half the carbon footprint of concrete. It can dissolve and biodegrade while remaining strong enough to use for building construction. Sounds pretty ideal, right?

Finite is still in the testing phase, but the company has plans to bring it to market soon, joining a growing list of alternative building materials aiming to make the construction industry a little less dirty.

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