UKCW 2019

NEC BIRMINGHAM   08-10 OCTOBER 2019

Glass and concrete building 800x400

Over the past few years, we’ve been pushing the limits when it comes to construction materials, technologies and practices. But do we push hard enough? This is one of those questions that will never have just one simple ‘yes or no’ answer. In some sectors of the construction industry, we’ve made incredible headway and managed to mould the modern way of doing things. Take 3D printing, for example, we’ve managed to create structures using this technology and while it may have a little further to go, we are constantly developing new ways to implement it into the everyday lives of a construction company.

There are a few things that we’re excited to see as common practice in the future, one of which is transparent aluminium. While it does sound a little far-fetched it’s real and could be a fantastic material to start using. There are a number of reasons why this would be a great thing but first what exactly is transparent aluminium? And can aluminium actually be transparent? The simple way to answer this question would be to say; it depends. When you hear, aluminium, you’ll be thinking of a metal that conducts electricity and heat, something that looks like kitchen foil. But this is that in fact, it a concoction in its own right. This transparent aluminium won’t be able to conduct electricity, in actual fact, it lacks most of the properties of traditional/ regular aluminium even the metal part. It’s a ceramic called Aluminium Oxynitride or ALON for short, composed of Aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen. Oddly, ALON has been around since the 1980s but hasn’t become a mainstream material despite its fantastic properties.

So, what can we use ALON for? The most obvious would be to use it for windows! The fact that ALON is four times stronger than glass, but still transparent means you get the best of both worlds. It’s even bullet-proof which is fantastic if you live in an area that is prone to harsh weather or natural disasters like flooding and hurricanes because if it can withstand bullets, it’ll offer a bit more protection than regular glass. This would also be great for armoured vehicles, this would make them lighter due to the reduced thickness of the glass all while offering protection.

The problem with introducing ALON to the construction industry will be the cost. It’s expensive and that’s understandable, in the armoured glass market it’s five times the cost of traditional laminated glass. But the chances are that if ALON becomes a mainstream material, the price will go down and it’ll become more affordable.

The next thing that we’re excited about would be the introduction of self-healing concrete into the mainstream market. Although this sounds a little odd at first the science behind it is very interesting and makes a lot of sense. Self-healing concrete has been a reality for a long time now, which brings about the question; why isn’t it already common practice? Back in 2015, the Guardian featured an article that talks about this self-healing technology.

But how does this self-healing concrete work? After a technical breakdown, I’m able to explain that it's quite simple. When making the concrete, the addition of a self-activating bacteria to the mix is the main thing. So, when there is a crack in the concrete, water is more than likely to make its way in and when it does the bacteria reacts with the water. This will then create a limestone that seals the crack and makes sure that no debris or extra water can get in in the future. This is going to help to save a lot of money in the long run due to the lack of repairs which means that the ROI (return on investment) will be brilliant.

On a more technical level, the bacteria using that the self-healing concrete is called Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii. And so, the bacteria can survive, dormant for up to 200 years. The reaction is similar to that of osteoplast calls in your body that help to create bones and heal them.

If we were to implement this into everyday construction, we’d be able to maintain structures more efficiently. In addition to this, implementing self-healing concrete in areas that are prone to earthquakes would be a brilliant idea. After an earthquake occurs, and cracks appear on buildings, the rain will be able to speed the repair process up. This is especially useful if the self-health process is introduced to roads. After an earthquake, the rain will have an efficient effect and seal the cracks quickly.

 

Road crack 800x400

There is no doubt that pushing forward with technology is important, but we mustn’t forget to implement these breakthroughs. We can make your life a lot easier on a number of fronts with new technology, from 3D printing a house to roads that need little to no maintenance. Saving time, making peoples jobs easier but also ensuring the safety of customers are all key parts of construction the R&D side can help such a lot.

Glass building 800x400

Credit: Aluminium Bending Specialists

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