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"Breakthrough" Systems Makes Building Panels Out Of Straw
According to the story about the three little pigs, straw isn't a good building material. But that hasn't stopped David R. Ward, a former building contractor from Ashland, Ore., from putting 10 years of research into his Strawjet process that converts straw into a low-cost building material.

    Ward was recently named the 2006 Inventor of the Year by The History Channel, National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, and Time Magazine for his invention that's expected to make a significant global impact. He beat out nearly 4,500 other inventors and was awarded a $25,000 grant.

    His Strawjet technology is actually a multi-stage system that involves four machines.

    "The Strawjet system harnesses the strength of straw by tightly bundling the plant stems into tightly-bound 2-in. diameter cables. These cables can be used in a variety of ways," says Ward.

    Three prototypes of the main field machine have been built so far. Here's how the system works:

    The machine works a lot like a baler. It picks up a windrow of straw, and makes four cables out of it. These four cables are dropped on the ground behind the machine. Depending on the crop, a clay-based binding material can be applied to the straw during this process to keep the individual pieces from sliding against each other. In this case, the cables then need to dry in the field for a day or two. Some crops, such as sunflowers or cotton, don't require this application.

    Another machine picks up the four cables, cuts them into 8-ft. lengths, and weaves them into a mat, similar to a giant bamboo window blind. The machine then rolls the mats into 5-ft. dia. rolls.

    A third machine unrolls the mats and sprays on a layer of binding material to bond one layer of mat to another in stacks, until the desired thickness is achieved.

    Once the stacks are dry, a fourth machine cuts them to size, based on the design of the building to be constructed. At this point the machines can also be used to cut out windows and doors, saving labor after they're delivered to the construction site. At the building site, all sides of the panels are then coated with plaster.

    Ward points out that Strawjet panels replace the drywall, studs, insulation, and siding.

    Strawjet Inc., hopes to introduce a stationary, hand-fed version of the machine in countries where people harvest small grain crops by hand. Although the hand-fed machine will be more labor intensive, it will be able to turn almost any type of straw or fiber into a uniform building material.

    Ward has successfully experimented with the straw from wheat, hemp, flax, cotton, sunflowers, tobacco, rice, bamboo and palm fronds.

    He expects the Strawjet system to be priced at under $200,000.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, ASET, 5765 Colver Road, Talent, Ore. 97540 (ph 541 535-5822; dward@ jeffnet.org or greeninventor@jeffnet.org; www.strawjet.com or www.greeninventor.org).

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2006 - Volume #30, Issue #4