What are Modern Building Materials?
Given enough time, innovation and new technologies will change every aspect of our lives. Who would have thought there would be a continual evolution of the building materials we use to build homes and commercial buildings. Clearly, we are seeing a new generation of building materials every few years.
In recent years, much of the focus around the world has been on using building materials that target Eco-friendly initiatives. After taking a look at some of the major innovations in recent years related to building materials, there certainly has been a concerted effort to innovate building materials that could help health causes and the environment.
What are some of these building materials, and how do they make our lives better? In the following section, we will answer these questions and more.
New Innovations in Building Materials
While several recent innovations have targeted wood materials and the use of certain metals, it's clear that many of the most prominent innovations have been targeting concrete and brick. That will become very evident as we take a look at 12 recent building material innovations that could have a positive impact on our lives. Remember, the goals of these innovations are power efficiency for lower costs and lessening the impact of new construction on the environment.
1. Transparent Aluminum
Transparent aluminum or ALON is a "see-through" poly-crystalline ceramic that is created by combining the right mixture of aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen. Through a pressurized heating process, this ceramic material becomes translucent.
As a building material, it has applications for windows (even bullet-proof glass) and dome fixtures where glass would commonly be used. Of course, transparent aluminum is a lot more durable than glass and does a much better job as an insulator. Simultaneously, it can deflect cold temperatures and act as a radiation plate to absorb available heat for energy efficiency in the wintertime.
2. Aluminum Foam
The simplicity of manufacturing this material is what makes it cost-effective. Aluminum foam is manufactured by injecting gaseous air into a molten metal (aluminum) material. This creates a very durable and aesthetically attractive building material that can also be used to create decorative structures.
As a straight building material, aluminum foam can be used as soundproofing or impact-absorbing material in walls, ceilings, and flooring.
3. Invisible Solar Cells
First developed by the Swiss firm SCEM, invisible solar cells are the newest innovation related to solar panels. The translucent quality of this material makes it suitable for use on and around windows and exterior walls. This offers home and building owners a way to replace large unattractive standard solar panels that are often placed on the grounds or roof. During manufacturing, the solar cells are placed around the edges of the building material.
The benefits of invisible solar cubes or windows are they work at lower temperatures and they can absorb light that isn't visible to the naked eye. They can then efficiently convert that light into energy, which makes for a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution. By the way, they can easily be attached to almost any kind of surface regardless of the material.
4. Cooling Systems Inside of Bricks
The manufacturing process for bricks with an internal cooling system calls for the combination of clay and hydrogel. The cooling process works as follows: The hydrogel will absorb water. As the bricks start to warm, the hydrogel will start to release the absorbed water, which will effectively act to cool the brick. As a result of the brick's cooling, the applicable structure will cool as well. Experts claim that "hydroceramics" like this can lower the temperature of a structure by as much as six degrees.
5. Translucent Wood
Who would have ever thought we could manufacture windows from wood. Well, it is now being done. Transparent wood is created through a special heat-treating process, using wood from the fast-growing, low-density balsa tree. By avoiding the carbon footprint created in glass production, translucent wood offers a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and Eco-friendly option for windows, patio panels, and shower enclosures.
The benefits of this alternative to glass are it's lighter, deflects light and heat better, and is much more durable. Also, it will only crack or splinter under pressure as opposed to breaking like glass. This is the perfect cost-effective solution for window replacements.
6. Bricks Made From Cigarette Filters
Cigarette butts are nothing more than a nuisance. While they were created to serve as a filtering system to help lower the chemical intake by smokers, they otherwise have had very little value. Also, they aren't biodegradable, which makes them Eco-unfriendly.
Thanks to the efforts of researchers at RMIT, cigarette butts can now be used to create light bricks. As a building material, these lighter bricks are proving to be easier to handle and result in a more energy-efficient solution for the external walls of a structure. Better yet, mass manufacturing of these bricks could result in sparing the environment harm from up to 1.5 million tons of chemical-laden waste each year.
7. Light Generating Cement
Light-generating cement is created by combining non-flammable concrete (sand, silica, industrial waste, alkali, and water) with tiny glass balls. This forms a gel-like material that is very easy to work with and form into all kinds of shapes and sizes. Also, the ability to absorb light makes the material energy efficient.
The glass balls will act to absorb light and then radiate the light into or around a structure. Building applications include swimming pool linings, reflective facades, bathrooms, kitchens, and driveway reflectors.
8. Modular Bamboo
The durability of bamboo furniture gave home builders a hint about the possible uses of bamboo in the construction process. Modular bamboo is a very sustainable, durable (when chemically treated), and versatile building material. Also, it's abundant, which results in a low cost. Given its strength, bamboo can withstand great pressure, which makes it a very good building material in areas where earthquakes are frequent.
Since it's lightweight while being stronger than steel, it's a great alternative for structural beams, ceilings, and even flooring. In fact, the flexibility and weight of this material work well for builders who are producing prefab homes to be delivered long distances.
9. Cabkoma Strand Rod
Cabkoma strand rods are made from thermoplastic carbon fiber composite, which makes them much lighter than a standard metal rod or rebar. At the same time, the material is just as durable while also being corrosion-proof. Given the material's strength and durability, it stands up well under the impact of an earthquake or hurricane-type winds. The material can be easily cut and shaped into various sizes.
10. Floating Docks and Piers
For homeowners living on rivers or lakes, having a pier or dock is highly desirable. Unfortunately, constructing a pier or dock from standard building materials can be complicated and time-consuming, depending on the waterway. The advent of floating docks has made the addition of a pier or dock much more affordable and easier to construct.
Made from polyethylene materials, these lightweight piers/docks are ideally suited for areas where water levels will fluctuate because they literally float on the water's surface. At the same time, they feel very stable under the feet of occupants due to the framing materials. They come in prefab kits or with aluminum frames. If a homeowner decides they want to shorten or extend the length of the dock, it's very easy to add or subtract sections to spec.
11. Bricks That Absorb Pollutants
Pollution absorbing bricks are made with a double-layered and insulated facade system. The materials act to absorb/capture air pollutants while releasing filtered air into the atmosphere. Based on experiments, these bricks are able to filter out 30% of the air's fine pollutants and 100% of larger pollutants (size of dust particle). These bricks are designed to work in conjunction with internal ventilation systems to create a healthier living environment.
12. Self-healing Concrete
Once standard concrete fractures or cracks, it either progresses until problems arise or has to be replaced at a high cost. Self-healing concrete is infused with bacteria that are activated when it comes in contact with water. Certainly, outside concrete that cracks will encounter water exposure. Once the bacteria come in contact with water, the bacteria produce calcite. The calcite will act to plug cracks/fractures and subsequently harden. Heating the concrete can also activate the bacteria. This works well for concrete used inside the structure, concrete that won't get natural exposure to water.
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