For his dissertation on improving the material properties of the clay brick, Thomas Kiefer has been presented with the Ressel Award, valued at 13 000 euros for scientific research, of Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) in October 2020. Thomas Kiefer is researching at the Institute for Mechanics of Materials and Structures at TU Wien and worked together with Wienerberger for his dissertation.
“First, you have to understand the properties of the brick constituents, for example stiffness or thermal conductivity,” says Kiefer. For this purpose, it was necessary to further develop elaborate measurement methods, for example for the determination of the thermal conductivity with an atomic force microscope. Also needed are mathematical models with which conclusions can be drawn concerning the properties of the brick material. Building on this, Kiefer ultimately developed a computer model that can be used to calculate the properties of whole bricks or brick walls. “Precisely, this connection between different size scales is one of the central challenges in this research work,” he explains. “With our models, you can say exactly what clay formulation and what shaping method is best in brick production to obtain the desired properties.”
Thomas Kiefer hopes to help the clay brick as a construction material open up new possibilities for application: “I am certain that bricks can play a much bigger role in future, for building projects in which only concrete is currently considered.” This, he added, was important not least for climate protection.