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Indonesian high school student innovates eco-friendly bricks to combat air pollution

In Indonesia, high school student Sheina Ashley Pribadi leads the ACE project, using innovative eco-friendly building materials to combat air pollution.

She repurposes fly ash from power plants to reduce carbon emissions and inspire awareness of low-pollution construction materials, driven by her Stanford University course experience.

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INDONESIA: In the midst of growing concerns about air pollution, a high school student in Indonesia has made a remarkable breakthrough by creating eco-friendly building materials, particularly bricks, to help reduce carbon emissions.

Sheina Ashley Pribadi, a 12th-grade student at Jakarta Intercultural School, initiated the ACE project, which aims to replace conventional cement bricks that contribute to environmental pollution.

Sheina’s innovative approach involves using fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants, as a partial substitute for cement in brick production.

Fly ash is typically regarded as waste, which, if not repurposed, can contaminate waterways and end up in landfills, causing further pollution.

Sheina’s vision for the ACE project is to raise awareness about the importance of low-pollution building materials and, ultimately, mitigate the impact of climate change.

She first conceived the idea during an environmental solutions course at Stanford University the previous year.

She collaborated with professors and engineers and conducted practical experiments in Jakarta, which included creating house prototypes and testing them in a laboratory.

The final formula she developed can prevent the release of up to 50% of carbon dioxide. Substituting one kilogram of cement with fly ash results in saving 0.9 kilograms of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Sheina went on to conduct strength tests on nine brick prototypes in a laboratory at Tarumanegara University in Jakarta, surpassing the standard FC20 (medium-quality concrete) set by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.

Transforming public spaces

The eco-friendly bricks are now being produced with the help of local workshops in Bogor, using fly ash sourced from the Paiton Malang coal-fired power plant. Sheina’s architect uncle assisted in the design aspect.

Currently, the bricks are primarily intended for public interest projects, such as repairing damaged sidewalks, like the one constructed near Al-Firdaus School in Bumi Serpong Damai, Tangerang, Banten.

Illustration: Sidewalk at Bumi Serpong Damai, Tangerang. (Photo: ccspatern.com)

Regarding the commercialization of her invention, Sheina has mentioned that it is not an immediate goal.

She emphasized that the project’s main aim is to benefit both society and the environment.

Sheina’s groundbreaking efforts have been recognized with a grant from The Iris Project, an organization that supports young individuals worldwide in their endeavours to protect and restore the environment.

The organization also provides peer-to-peer mentorship to young climate activists.

Sheina hopes that her invention can be patented in the future and potentially form partnerships with construction companies in Indonesia to facilitate mass production, creating more environmentally friendly building materials and reducing carbon emissions.

Sheina Ashley Pribadi, who is also a finalist in the Global RISE for The World 2023 program, aims to serve others throughout her life through her innovative projects.

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Coal fly ash is concentrated in radioactive isotopes (Which are naturally found in coal to begin with). So yes, use these bricks on roads, sidewalks and places that are not indoor environments.

Also brick buildings do not hold up very well to seismic shaking. So use these bricks in the parts of Indonesia that do not experience strong Earthquakes.

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