It used to be that change and innovation in the construction field was a slow-moving process. Thankfully, this is no longer the case, and rapid developments in processes and building materials have made it both safer and easier to build projects across the globe. The development of innovative new building materials is allowing those in the industry to tackle projects that are both more environmentally friendly and durable due to their improved strength and flexibility. Here is a look at some of the most promising building materials of the future, many of which are already being put to use today.
Graphene is both the world’s thinnest substance while at the same time being transparent and stronger than steel. It is an innovative super-material that is just one atom thick, and it is creating breakthroughs in multiple industries, including construction. This carbon-based material has the ability to conduct electricity and is being considered for use in solar cells and desalination technology.
Nanocrystals are one of the most ingenious new materials with construction applications that are actually being used today. These tiny crystalline particles are 100,000 times thinner than a human hair, and their unique properties are making them very useful in various segments of the construction industry. One of these areas is in their use in Smart Windows, where nanocrystals use voltage to control the levels of light and heat that pass through window panes. In winter months, the windows will allow more light and heat to pass through, presenting the occupant with tremendous energy efficiency and savings.
Concrete remains one of the most in-demand construction materials in the world. While it is sought after for its durability, thermal resistance, and easy availability, there’s no doubt that significant amounts are spent each year on repairing concrete structures. Enter this new material currently being tested that can be inserted into concrete structures, actually sense damage occurring, and then activate “healing agents” to automatically begin repairs.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a completed project continue to look the way it did on the day that it was delivered? Researchers at the University College of London are testing a new coating that not only resists moister but dirt and grime as well. Made from titanium dioxide nanoparticles, these self-cleaning finishes can be applied to glass, steel, and other materials and testing on large structures is forthcoming.
While invented over 70 years ago for use in the space program, this material that is the least dense solid known to man has just recently become affordable for consumer purchase thanks to some recent production advances. Aerogel is an insulator that is four times more efficient than foam or fiberglass and, while still more costly than common insulators, provides the added benefit of being flameproof and permeable to water vapor. Because Aerogel insulation is so light and efficient, it also reduces other building costs when used.
The gap between materials science and actual construction is often quite wide. However, as the demand for Green Building resources and more durable building materials continues to increase, a new generation of smart building materials is emerging. With the materials we’ve just listed, many are already in use in various projects around the globe, while others could be put into a building near you sooner than you think.