Innovative Building Materials Shaping the Future of Architecture

5.Stronger Concrete

At Purdue University, researchers are adding cellulose nanocrystals derived from wood fiber to concrete. Nano-reinforced materials typically outperform conventional alternatives across a range of mechanical and chemical properties—among them strength, impact resistance, and flexibility. When applied to construction materials like concrete, they help to reduce a structure’s environmental footprint by requiring less material to achieve a similar effect. The nanocrystal additive can be extracted as a by-product of industrial agriculture, bioenergy, and paper production. Its addition enhances the concrete-curing process, the researchers say, allowing the concrete to use water more efficiently and without impacting its weight or density significantly. Construction materials are among the target applications for the additive, Purdue associate professor Jeffrey Youngblood says, but the team is still working to scale it up from current dimensions of 1 foot tall by 6 inches in diameter, assessing data to standardize and optimize the material’s behavior. “We hope to be at a large test scale in a few years,” he says.

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Innovative Building Materials Shaping the Future of Architecture

 4. More (and Better) Graphene

A faster way to mass-produce graphene—the ultrathin and super strong nanomaterial discovered at the University of Manchester in the U.K. in 2004—and at a higher quality than was previously possible. Their batch-processing method allows for the growth of smoother and stronger graphene sheets than do conventional thermal processes while cutting production time from hours to minutes and increasing sample sizes from millimeters to—soon—inches. The process doesn’t require the development of new processing equipment or infrastructure, says David Boyd, a Caltech staff scientist and first author of the related paper published in the journal Nature Communications. “It’s process-compatible,” he says. Still, the most likely applications for graphene in architecture are in small-scale products such as coatings, solar cells, and electronics.

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Innovative Building Materials Shaping the Future of Architecture

  1. Wave Benders

Researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a new way to control elastic waves—which can travel through materials without altering their composition—that could protect structures from seismic events. The team developed and engraved a geometric microstructure pattern into a steel plate to bend or refract elastic and acoustic waves away from a target. “By redirecting the shock waves carrying massive energy around the important infrastructures or residential buildings through a metamaterial cloak, civilian lives and common properties can be saved from catastrophic earthquakes or tsunamis,” says Guoliang Huang, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The team chose steel for its ubiquity, but Huang says other metals and plastics can be engineered to have similar functionality

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Innovative Building Materials Shaping the Future of Architecture

  1. Resilient, Self-Cleaning Finishes

For application to glass, steel, paper, and other materials, a new coating from researchers at the University College London resists moisture even after being scratched or exposed to oil—typical weak spots for conventional repellent coatings. Made from coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, the finish rejects water, oil, and even red wine by bouncing the invasive substances off its surface and removing dirt in the process. Although the coating is currently applied in 20-centimeter-square areas, “we see no reason why this couldn’t be scaled up,” says Ivan Parkin, head of the university’s chemistry department and corresponding author of a paper on the research in the journal Science. Parkin’s team has talked about automobile paint and moisture-resistant coatings as possible applications for the technology. It could eventually be used to create a durable, self-cleaning façade that can better withstand the elements than current options on the market

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Innovative Building Materials Shaping the Future of Architecture

  1. Unbreakable Materials

Julia Greer, a materials science and mechanics professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), uses two-photon lithography to create precise polymer nanotrusses that can be coated in materials like metal orceramic, hollowed out to remove the polymer, and then stacked in a fractal construction—essentially a nanotruss made of nanotrusses. The newly created material couples the structural and material properties of its medium, such as metal or ceramic, to possess previously unheard-of characteristics including flaw-tolerance and shape memory. The lab is trying to scale the process from its current millimetre size to that of a sheet of letter-sized paper. But don’t expect to see the metamaterial used in structural members or cladding, Greer says. Rather, likely uses in the built space include battery cells, smart windows, heat exchangers, and wind turbines. “You can make paper that is un-wettable, thermally insulating, and untearable,” she says. “You can let your imagination go wild.”

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POLYMERIC SMART MATERIALS: Plastic materials with sensors and RFID systems

The development of new solutions in terms of materials is not only limited to the search and optimization of novel materials that provide new or improved end product based on its composition but also adding new functionalities that provide a new value added to the final product.
The last AMI Consulting report of November 2014, leaders in plastic market research and consultancy, pointed out that plastic industry is a major part of the world economy in 2014 with more than $500 billion per year, which generates a consumption of more than $1 trillion in plastic products. That gives an idea about the potential developments and innovations in this sector.
Talking about innovation in materials, efficiency, sustainability, home automation, autonomy,, inevitably arise as usual terms. The combination of polymeric materials developments and incorporation of sensors or other devices, represent one of the possible lines of action to provide added value final products. In that sense, recently, on Humanoids 2014 Congress, it was presented a humanoid capable of reading RFID tags by incorporating radiofrequency chips on the manufacturing material of its hands. They allow to collect information on product characteristics and to provide information on the treatment thereof. The same principle extrapolated to the incorporation of these systems on other polymeric materials allows the development of applications for monitoring products and process traceability, in-situ leaks, manipulation controls, detection, etc.
Regarding this, the Department of Advanced Materials of CETIM is working on several projects aimed to the development of new polymeric materials with embedded sensors and tags to provide the added features of traceability, monitoring, and control of final products.

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Smart-tinting glass: A window to greener Asian cities

With urbanization and climate change influencing the development of Asian cities, building materials like glass need to evolve and utilize innovations in technology to bring about a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.

Smart-tinting glass technology

Technology, of course, is the answer.

While the sun can power solar panels and roof tiles to create sustainable energy, it can also have a negative impact on the energy efficiency of a building. Installing smart-tinting windows can reduce a building’s energy consumption by 20 percent

Smart-tinting glass dynamically changes between clear and dark, through the course of a day, based on data from thermal and light sensors, time of day, the sun’s position, and other data. Whereas manual shades and blinds tend to stay down, smart-tinting glass maximizes the amount of natural brightness in a building by blocking light – as much as 99.9 percent in some products – and clearing as the environment warrants.

How does it work? Two thin layers of glass, each with a microscopically-thin conductive coating with layers of chemical compounds sandwiched between the two panes, change the optical characteristics of the glass when a low-voltage electrical charge is applied; ions move between materials to darken or clear the glass.

As electricity is only used during switching, smart-tinting glass can be set to ‘clear’ or achieve various levels of tint for aesthetic or comfort reasons and do not require power to maintain the desired tint level. In interior applications, a level of privacy can also be achieved, such as conference room or a bedroom.

While electrochromic (EC) technology has been around for decades, newer technologies such as those used by Kinestral Technologies’ Halio smart-tinting glass, has tackled the drawbacks of earlier versions that limited adoption in the market. These enhancements include eliminating the yellow cast in the clear state and tinting to more neutral shades of grey, tinting more uniformly, and accelerating the tinting speeds.

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Printed Materials for wearable electronics and Smart Fabrics

Based on innovative silver and dielectric inks, DuPont’s array of flexible materials for wearable technology offer a host of benefits, including exceptional stretch performance and washability. They’re resistant to detergents and can be washed in a regular washing machine. These features enable greater freedom for designers, enhanced wearer comfort, and cost savings for high-volume manufactured wearables.

Applications for wearable electronics and smart fabrics include health monitoring, communication, and Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays.

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‘Roadless’: Ackeem Ngwenya’s Amazing All-Terrain Shape-Shifting Wheel Design

The phrase goes that one oughtn’t reinvent the wheel, yet we’ve seen countless examples of people trying, from square to hubless to powered. The latest wheel reinvention to make the, er, rounds comes from Ackeem Ngwenya, a student of Innovation Design Engineering at London’s RCA. Ngwenya’s designed something that looks simultaneously nutty and completely feasible: A shape-shifting wheel he’s calling “Roadless.”

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The “Why” of it is pretty simple. Ngwenya grew up in rural Africa, where “head-loading” remains the most practical way to transport goods, as arduous and inefficient as it is. He reckons that a shape-shifting wheel could adapt to different terrains, thus providing a one-size-fits-all solution for load-carrying carts, bikes or vehicles in areas with no infrastructure.

The “How” of it is both simple and fascinating. By using the principle of a scissor jack, and arraying a series of them around a circle, the wheel would either grow shorter and wider, or taller and more narrow, as the mechanism is manipulated

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