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Dutch university plans on building a church out of ice and saw dust


June 6, 2014

An illustration of the planned finished product

An illustration of the planned finished product

Image Gallery (3 images)

How do you top building the world's largest ice dome? Well, if you're the Eindhoven University of Technology, you build a 40-meter (131-ft)-high model of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica ... and you build it it out of "pykrete."

A team of over 50 Eindhoven faculty and students plan to build the 1:4 scale model over a three-week period starting late this December in northern Finland – the site of the university's record-breaking ice dome build, last winter.

The construction process will involve setting up inflatable molds, spraying a layer of snow over them, followed by a layer of water containing 10 percent sawdust. That water/sawdust mix will soak into the snow and freeze, forming a material known as pykrete. The wood fiber content in pykrete results in its being three times stronger than pure ice.

Arno Pronk with a chunk of pykrete

Once the molds are deflated and removed from the inside, the pykrete shell will be left standing under its own support. The nave of the church will be made by encasing hanging ropes and textiles in pykrete.

"You can use it to build thin-walled temporary structures that are safe and low-cost" said project leader Arno Pronk. "Our technique enables environment-friendly applications such as seasonal storage in agriculture, the offshore industry and expeditions, as well as for recreational facilities like ice hotels."

Pykrete is perhaps best-known from Project Habakkuk, a British World War II project that was aimed at building an aircraft carrier out of the material.

Sources: Eindhoven University of Technology, Project website

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I am more interested to see it melt away as the weather warms up. Students with nothing better to do?



During WWII there was some serious discussion of building an Aircraft carrier out of phkrete and stationing it In the North Atlantic. Mythbusters conducted some testing of this substance and found it to be very strong. They also built a small outboard powered boat which worked very well.

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