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High School science wizkid from Cape Town wins gold at Turkey international science fair

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Adrian Huysamen created light-weight, fire-resistant, insulating and durable bricks made using the mineral vermiculite. PHOTO: supplied
Adrian Huysamen created light-weight, fire-resistant, insulating and durable bricks made using the mineral vermiculite. PHOTO: supplied

The science project of A Grade 10 learner from Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck earned him a gold medal at this year’s Buca International Music, Science, Engineering Energy Fair (Imsef) in Turkey.

Adrian Huysamen (17) represented Eskom Expo for Young Scientists at the virtual Imsef with the research project entitled “A comparison between the influence of three different sizes of exfoliated vermiculite on the thermal and mechanical properties of cement construction bricks”.

For his project the teen created construction bricks that can be used to build houses.

He says the aim was to create light-weight, fire- resistant, insulating and durable bricks made using the mineral vermiculite.

“I created a brick that has vermiculite (a golden type of mineral used to work into the ground when there was a drought, that’s a silicate mineral). I used that to mix into the cement and created bricks that are one eighth lighter than normal cement bricks. They are 60% stronger after a building fire, so the building won’t collapse.”

He says his research project aims to address South Africa’s need for more energy-efficient buildings and construction materials.

“The bricks can be used on their own without any other form of insulation in a building. These bricks are good for informal settlement building. As you don’t have extra cost of insulation, they’re light weight so building can happen faster. It’s safe in fires. We know informal settlement fires are constantly ongoing in the province, so it would help in a physical setting to save lives in that situation.”

Huysamen says it took him just over a year to create and compile his research for this project.

“I first experimented with a few different bricks. And my whole project was about how much vermiculite and what size of vermiculite would be the best to make the optimal brick that would be a good balance between strength and a good balance between insulation and fire-resistant properties.”

He explains that many hours and hard work went into the project.

“I weighed them to find the best light-weight brick. I then put them into a hydraulic press to see which one was the strongest. I fired them in a simulated fire and then again put them in a press to see if the structural integrity was still held. I also put fire on the one side of the brick and put temperature on the other side to see what the insulation property was of the brick.”

Upon completing the project, he submitted a 60-page report on his findings which he submitted for the Eskom project.

Huysamen says he is proud of his achievement.

“I feel very excited and thankful for receiving this great award. A lot of hard work went into this project, and I am very glad that all that work paid off. My project was inspired by our country’s energy crisis, as well as dangerous informal settlement fires motivated me to find a solution for these problems.”

Sumaya Nassiep, Eskom Development Foundation Chief Executive Officer, congratulated the learner, and says they are delighted to see one of their own being recognised on the world stage at the Buca Imsef.

“It is notable that at such a young age, Adrian realised that environmental and economic constraints are increasing and affecting the construction industry; which results in a need for more energy-efficient buildings and construction materials. Our country’s future looks brighter with the calibre of learners like Adrian, who we have a hand in cultivating as a future innovator.”

Nthato Minyuku, Eskom Group Executive: Government and Regulatory Affairs, says: “Taking part in the Buca Imsef has been an incredible opportunity for Adrian to show South African ingenuity to a wider audience. It is impressive to see that a key sustainability driver for the organisation like Eskom Expo is producing the next generation of scientists, innovators and engineers, whose research projects are on par with upward trends in the vermiculite global markets, and could be impactful for the changing world.”

The teen, who wants to pursue a career in civil engineering, says he hopes his project can be manufactured and used.

“I want to create these bricks and put them into the market to help all people in the Western Cape, South Africa and even the world to build buildings that are safer for them, are low cost and energy efficient.”

More research by the country’s top young scientists will be showcased at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF) which takes place until Friday 9 December in Boksburg.


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