Winter School - Engineering for Development - Sand: an (In)Finite Resource?, 9 - 28 January 2016, TU Berlin Campus in El-Gouna, Egypt

Publish Date: Jul 08, 2015

Deadline: Oct 11, 2015

Event Dates: from Jan 09, 2016 12:00 to Jan 28, 2016 12:00

About the Programe

The E4D winter school aims to develop an integrated vision to a global challenge of today¿s construction industry. The programme revolves around the so-far untapped resource desert sand and the question of how to activate its potential as an alternative building material for our future cities. Experts from around the world will share their knowledge and give insights in their field of research.

The E4D winter school will be composed of 30 master and doctoral students, 15 each from ETH Zurich and from other academic institutions, particularly in developing countries. They will be joined by faculty members and external experts from fields of expertise related to the winter school topic. The master and doctoral students will come from different disciplines related to the topic.
During the first week, students will be introduced to fields relevant to the topic at hand through a series of input speeches, lectures and workshops conducted by experts. Case study work will provide students with hands-on opportunities to work in an interdisciplinary and intercultural team and to develop alternatives to the chosen topic.

In case study experiments the acquired knowledge will be tested and applied.


Sand is the most used raw material for the production of goods on our planet. It is found in concrete, glass, computers, detergents and even toothpaste. But sand is a finite resource: what took millions of years to become into being through erosion and sedimentation, man is mining at rivers and ocean coasts in a so-far unknown speed. Sand is the megastar of the industrial and digital era - our culture is literally built upon this resource. But sand is not equal to sand: The construction industry requires grain sizes and rough shapes that are only found in river beds, lakes and the oceans. Over the turn of millions of years, mountains gradually eroded into gravel, sand and dust. Eventually, rainfalls carry these particles through existing watercourses to the sea. Sand is mostly composed of quartz, a mineral form of silicon dioxide. It is one of the most abundant materials on the earth surface and also one of the strongest. These properties make it valuable to various industries.
Desert sand on the other hand is presently unsuitable to the construction industry: Gradual wind erosion polishes the sand particles into round and even forms and therefore reduces their friction capacity; desert sand is simply too fine and spherical in shape to act as a high-friction aggregate in a concrete matrix.

The E4D winter school 2016 aims to develop alternative methods to activate this so-far unusable resource for the construction industry. Lead by different experts from around the world, students will not only learn the theoretic background of this resource but experiment with current and future technologies to transform desert sand. Based on a wide range of disciplines in participants and guests, the case studies aim for a holistic approach considering economics, ecology, locality, architecture, etc.

Additional Information

Taking place in January 2016 at the TU Berlin Campus in El-Gouna, Egypt (duration: 3 weeks, date will follow).
Costs: CHF 500, including board and accommodation. All participants are responsible for organising their own domestic or international travel to El Gouna.

The Engineering for Development (E4D) Winter School 2016 will invite 30 master and doctoral students from different disciplines related to the topic of the winterschool. Applicants will be selected based on their academic record and previous work experiences. Applicants must send a one-page CV and one-page letter of motivation in PDF format stating their interest, to Mrs. Patricia Heuberger
Deadline: 11 October 2015
Notification: 30 October 2015

This opportunity has expired. It was originally published here:

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