What building materials will shape the future of construction?
- Translucent wood
- Carbon-fiber balsa
- Light-generating cement
- Pollution-absorbing bricks
- Self-healing concrete
The most common construction materials in the Philippines are mud and clay, rock, concrete, wood, steel or metal, glass, ceramics, plastics, and other cement composites. All structures are built from these materials—malls, condominiums, offices, highways, and roads. Use of these materials has been common practice for as long as anyone can remember.
However, just because we’re sticking to traditions doesn’t mean the construction industry is not moving forward. On the contrary, the industry is in a state of continuous development. Every day, they’re looking into alternative options that can provide better support and function. And we’re telling you that experts in the field have run into some pretty interesting materials.
While they are yet to be used today, these innovative construction materials are sure to shape the future of construction!
Graphene is a one-atom layer of pure carbon. It has been called a “miracle material” because of its many properties. A single sheet of graphene is extremely thin, strong, virtually transparent, and can conduct electricity.
There are countless applications for graphene including, but not limited to, touch screens, solar cells, aerospace materials, desalination technology, and liquid crystal displays.
The invention of graphene was such a huge step forward that, in 2010, the researchers responsible for it won Nobel Prizes in Physics.
Aerographite is a strong and bendable material made from hollow carbon tubes. It is stable at room temperature, can withstand a lot of vibration, and is able to conduct electricity. Moreover, it is 75 times lighter than Styrofoam.
But what really makes aerographite a material of the future is the fact that it can be compressed into a space that is 95% its normal area. It can then be removed from the said area and returned to its normal form without any damage. In fact, the stress and compression only make it stronger.
Because of all this, aerographite can be used to make lighter batteries, aviation materials, satellites, and different purification systems.
Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Stockholm recently developed Optically Transparent Wood (TW). Just as the name suggests, it is a translucent wood that is created by removing the lining in the wood veneer and then undergoing nanoscale tailoring.
It is a very cheap, readily available, and renewable resource that can reduce the cost of many projects like the manufacture of windows, solar panels, and other architectural structures.
Balsa wood is a useful resource that is stiff and incredibly lightweight but it is difficult and expensive to produce. Luckily, a team of researchers from Harvard University was able to make cellular composite materials that had the same properties.
They were able to create this material through 3D extrusion printing techniques and fiber-reinforced epoxy-based thermosetting resins. All this resulted in a cheaper product that could potentially replace balsa wood.
We now have cement that has the ability to absorb and irradiate light and could potentially act as a light bulb. The applications for this new light-generating cement are wide and limitless, especially now that one of the main trends in construction is green building.
Green building is a way of creating structures with resource- and energy-efficiency in mind and light-generating cement is the perfect material for this type of construction. It can be used in swimming pools, parking lots, road safety signs, and so much more.
Pollution-absorbing bricks are designed to be part of any building’s standard ventilation system. It is a double-layer brick with specialized bricks on the outside and a layer that provides standard insulation on the inside. The concept behind this innovative material is cyclone separation—a method or process used by modern vacuum cleaners.
Essentially, these bricks work somewhat like vacuums—they suck in pollutants in the air and release filtered air. This is yet another material perfect for green building.
Although it is one of the most popular construction materials used around the globe, concrete has one fatal flaw and that is its vulnerability to cracks and damage. Solutions to this problem are being offered day after day and it seems that experts have finally arrived at something.
When bacteria are mixed in the concrete, it gains the ability to seal cracks. The only thing needed to activate this self-healing concrete is water. Once water is poured in, the bacteria produce calcite and completely fills the crack.
Aside from this, a Dutch civil engineer has also produced a self-healing concrete that uses heat to—for lack of better word—regenerate. He demonstrated his invention in a presentation by cracking the concrete in two, putting them together, and placing them in a microwave. As the material cooled, the two pieces joined to make a single piece of concrete.
Both these self-healing concretes can heavily impact the way things are built as they can be used for almost all architectural structures like building foundations and sidewalks.
We may not notice it, but more and more materials are being developed and invented to further change the way we design and construct infrastructures. The things listed here are just a few of the many things the industry has achieved. There are more materials out there to see and discover, and you can bet that this is just the beginning.
Soon, buildings made from pollution-absorbing bricks and roads made from self-healing concrete will be the standard. Traditional construction materials in the Philippines like concrete, wood, glass, and such will be a thing of the past and we can finally say that we are indeed living in the future.