Smart Building Materials
Aerogel holds 15 entries in the Guinness Book of Records, more than any other material. Sometimes called “frozen smoke”, aerogel is made by the supercritical drying of liquid gels of alumina, chromia, tin oxide, or carbon. It’s 99.8% empty space, which makes it look semi-transparent. Aerogel is a fantastic insulator — if you had a shield of aerogel, you could easily defend yourself from a flamethrower. It stops cold, it stops heat. You could build a warm dome on the Moon. Aerogels have unbelievable surface area in their internal fractal structures — cubes of aerogel just an inch on a side may have an internal surface area equivalent to a football field. Despite its low density, aerogel has been looked into as a component of military armor because of its insulating properties.
This tiny block of transparent aerogel is supporting a brick weighing 2.5 kg. The aerogel’s density is 3 mg/cm3.
2. Translucent Concrete
Concrete buildings are known more for their stability than their great lighting. That was until translucent concrete started to make its way on to the market.
Translucent concrete is mixed with glass fiber optical strands, which create a solid but sheer block. LitraCon, as the concrete is known, can be used in flooring and pavement.
According to the concretes manufacturers, the optical fibers make up only 4 percent of the mixture. Meaning that blocks made from this material still have the ability to support load-bearing walls
As you walk across your kitchen floor to get something from the refrigerator, the floor twinkles with lighted path that guides your way through the dark room. At least it would, if you had SensiTiles.
The concrete of the tiles is embedded with acrylic fiber-optic channels that transfer light from one point to another. As shadows move across Terrazzo's surface, the light channels flicker with a randomized, twinkling effect.
Their tiles are available for use as flooring, in bathrooms and even ceilings, so you can have twinkling lights follow you all over the house.
4. Electrified Wood
You may never have to deal with the tangle of wires again thanks to ?Wood.E.? This European-designed material incorporates a source of electricity directly into tables and chairs.
Two metal layers are pressed between the wood of the furniture, making it possible to pass an electrical current through the whole thing. The 12-volt power is fed to the metal layers via one connector, and lamps, and other devices can be connected via the other.
No mention of whether or not this furniture will work with all electrical outlets, but we're for any piece of furniture that means we don't have to find a way to tie all our wires together.
The Flexicomb's name describes it quite well. Designed by PadLab's Dan Gottleib while he was still an undergraduate at the Yale School of Architecture, the Flexicomb is a flexible honeycomb matrix, which can be used to build lighting fixtures, furniture and sculptural installations.
The material is made from thousands of closely packed polypropylene tube that will bend in the convex direction while remaining rigid in the concave one. Flexicomb is so versatile; it can be used for almost any imaginable purpose. Not to mention, who wouldn't want a lamp or chandelier made from the stuff when it looks as amazing as it does.
6. Kinetic Glass (Living Glass)
The fact that your home was looking out for your health would be a pretty comforting thought. Living glass does just that by monitoring CO2 levels in the air around you.
Living Glass, which was developed by architects Soo-in Yang and David Benjamin, is a smart material is a transparent surface that automatically opens and closes gill-like slits in response to human presence to control the air quality in the room.
The surface is embedded with wires that contract due to electrical stimulus. This allows the 'gills' to regulate air quality by 'breathing the air'.
A counter-top made of paper might not sound too sturdy, but a Richlite counter is almost indistinguishable from one made of wood.
70 percent of the material is made with recycled paper. The countertops are made by treating paper with a resin, and then baking it to create solid sheets. Richlite was first used in the aerospace, boating, and sports industries as reinforcement for surfaces like fiberglass, but now is available for architectural purposes as well.
8. Self-Repairing Cement
It may seem that most of these materials have been designed to replace concrete, but cement is itself still evolving. A new self-healing cement is currently being developed which has the ability to repair its own cracks.
This cement is mixed with microcapsules that release a glue-like epoxy resin that will automatically repair any cracks that form in the sidewalk or roadway. In addition this cement will have the ability to regulate heat. Phase-change materials that can absorb or release large amounts of heat have also been included in the ingredients.
With this material we would be able to save energy by developing buildings that can control their own temperature, and save money on repairs as well.
9. Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber is an extremely strong, lightweight material. It's five times as strong as steel, two times as stiff, yet weighs about two-thirds less.
Carbon fiber is made up of carbon strands that are thinner than human hair. The strands can be woven together, like cloth, and then that can be molded to any shape you might want. In addition to being strong, carbon fiber is also flexible, so it's the perfect material for construction projects in areas with that are exposed to hurricanes and tornados.
10. Liquid Granite
According to its creators, liquid granite has the ability to completely replace cement in concrete. The material is a lightweight and has the same load bearing capacity of cement, but is made of recycled materials.
Liquid granite has none of the environmental impacts that cement and concrete do. It is made up of between 30 and 70 percent recycled material, and uses less than one third of the cement used in precast concrete. Which means that it has a greatly reduced carbon footprint.
Finally, liquid granite is astoundingly fire resistant. It can withstand temperatures of up to 1,100 degrees Celsius while still maintaining its structural properties. Unlike concrete it does not explode in high temperatures.
11. Bendable Concrete
Traditional concrete is a very brittle material; any buckling or bending will cause it to crack. A new type of fiber-reinforced bendable concrete might just be putting an end to that issue.
This new concrete is around 500 times more resistant to cracking than regular concrete thanks to the tiny fibers, which account for two percent of its make up. The fibers slide within the concrete when bending occurs, providing it with enough give to prevent breakage.
It isn't just the fibers though; the materials in the concrete itself are designed for maximum flexibility as well. And thanks to these precautions, this concrete has a much longer life expectancy, which means it will cost a less in the long run too.
12. Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes are long chains of carbon held together by the strongest bond in all chemistry, the sacred sp2 bond, even stronger than the sp3 bonds that hold together diamond. Carbon nanotubes have numerous remarkable physical properties, including ballistic electron transport (making them ideal for electronics) and so much tensile strength that they are the only substance that could be used to build a space elevator. The specific strength of carbon nanotubes is 48,000 kN·m/kg, the best of known materials, compared to high-carbon steel’s 154 kN·/kg. That’s 300 times stronger than steel. You could build towers hundreds of kilometers high with it.
13. Transparent Alumina
Transparent alumina is three times stronger than steel and transparent. The number of applications for this are huge. Imagine an entire skyscraper or arcology made largely of transparent steel. The skylines of the future could look more like a series of floating black dots (opaque private rooms) rather than the monoliths of today. A huge space station made of transparent alumina could cruise in low Earth orbit without being a creepy black dot when it passes overhead. And hey… transparent swords!