Building materials is a topic not too many people get excited about. People are even less excited when it comes to advancements in building materials. After all bricks have been around since 7500 BC, while the ancient Romans first developed concrete used to build structures like the Coliseum and the Pantheon. The discovery of the Bessemer process in the 1850s lead to inexpensively mass produced steel and the invention of the safety elevator by Elisha Otis in 1852 helped make skyscrapers possible. Last April an article published in Construction Data listed some interesting examples of the next generation of building materials being researched and developed.
Researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have recently developed a process to make transparent wood panels by taking wood veneer and chemically removing the lignin. Lignin is the organic polymer found in plants that helps gives trees rigidity and strength and gives wood its brownish color. Once the lignin is removed from the veneer, it is impregnated with a transparent polymer to add strength and improve transparency. These polymers are better known by one of its trade names such as Lucite or Plexiglas. Applications include windows, semi-transparent facades and replacement of the glass used in solar panels.
A team of scientists at the University of Victoria in British Columbia believe they are close to having a formula for self-healing concrete. This is done by embedding concrete with a substance that releases into the concrete once it cracks to form a substance that will fill the crack and harden. Obvious advantages include extending the life of the concrete in our buildings, runways, roads and bridges and making it a more sustainable material.
Solar Cells that Create Energy from Raindrops
Scientists in China have designed an all-weather solar cell that works rain or shine. Creating solar energy from the sun is commonplace, but this new process converts energy from a striking raindrops. Energy is then created as the rain drops flow over the solar panel. Currently, these panels are not a commercially viable option, but the technology is rapidly advancing.
Carbon Capturing Concrete
This process involves capturing carbon dioxide from industrial emitting sources and converting it into a solid mineral which gets blended into concrete. The new material has only been made at lab scale by being shaped into tiny cones using 3D printers. The next step is to determine how to scale up the manufacture of the material to create a viable building product.
While the future prospect of better quality, less expensive building materials is exciting, contractors have to focus on the present day to day operation of their business to insure profitability. Finding quality bid projects for the estimating department is often a top priority. The LDI Line is a great source of construction projects currently bidding throughout the southeast. This free plan room service, sponsored by LDI Reproprinting Centers, is updated every business day and features bidding general contractors and viewable drawing files. Users can order digital or hard copy plans of any LDI Line project from any LDI location.