Bright side of the Puyehue eruption: volcanic ash bricks and natural insecticides
Argentine scientists developed bricks and are analyzing the possibility of making natural insecticides with the ashes from the Chilean Puyehue volcano eruption which this month a year ago covered several cities in Patagonia and caused millions of dollars losses, sources of the University that coordinates the studies announced.
A group of researchers designed a brick made with ash for the construction of housing, while another performs tests to replace cement with this volcanic compound in the construction industry, explained a spokesperson for the Rio Negro province National University, which coordinates work on the emergency volcanic program (Proevo) in Argentine Patagonia.
“With these compact volcanic ash blocks you can build a resilient structure, designed for people in housing emergency” indicated the architect Marianela Romero Hamsa, a member of the program.
The blocks were developed with a system of easy vertical and horizontal unions with space for power and insulating materials making them resistant to strong winds from the south of the country, said the architect.
“You could build a full house of 45 square meters per day since machinery works with an array of forms and at high speed, making the super-compact blocks”, Romero said. “With 500 kilos of ashes collected in the streets of Bariloche, you can make hundreds of bricks; daily production is 3.800”, added Romero.
The bricks can weigh anywhere between 5 and 8 kilos
Another group of researchers from the National Institute of agricultural technology (INTA) are exploring the possibility of volcanic ash as a natural insecticide on various species present in northern Patagonia.
Ashes have proved in lab testing to have effect on the tucuras, green locusts which attack agriculture production, as well as bed bugs that feed on the plants and tress sap.
“The chemicals identified in the ashes are highly abrasive and could as inert dust be used as inorganic insecticides” said researcher Valeria Fernández Arhex, responsible for the development of the experiment.
The Puyehue erupted at the beginning of June a year ago and caused the cancellation of thousands of flights, a situation that seriously affected tourism in the South of Argentina. Flights were cancelled for days running in central and south Argentina, Uruguay and south Brazil. Ash clouds were blown as far away as Australia and New Zealand and to the east reached South Africa, also delaying air traffic.
Ashes also caused massive losses to sheep flocks deprived of food because of the abrasive blanket covering pastures. According to a report by the Economics Graduates association from Rio Negro the city of Bariloche, Patagonia’s best ski and summer resort experienced losses of almost 300 million of dollars.