create new ways to take advantage of them. This can be seen in the use of concrete and cement, where many products are available that allow it to do things it could not do before.
Here are three of the most exciting advancement in this space;
Self-Healing concrete can solve issues relating to the deterioration of structures before the end of their service life. Concrete can serve as an extremely durable building material, but the materials used to make it are susceptible to water damage. Water infiltrating concrete can lead to corrosion of reinforcing steel, which causes cracks in the concrete due to reinforcement movement. These cracks allow for even more water infiltration and thus a larger problem is created over time.
Self-healing concrete can solve this problem by deploying a material that will seal and fill these cracks when they appear. This works because the material is designed to expand and contract in response to temperature changes, causing it to swell and crack at different times of the day.
Self-healing concrete is designed using calcite-precipitating bacteria. This bacteria will remain in the concrete for over two centuries and will only start to grow and form calcite crystals when water is present. The crystals then attract other minerals to form a plug that seals the crack.
Solar Energy-Generating Concrete
A group of researchers from ETH Zurich, led by Arno Schluter and Professor Philippe Block successfully designed and mounted a prototype for a roof made of concrete that was able to harness solar energy. The “solar concrete” can do this by using the photovoltaic effect, which is the ability of certain materials to convert sunlight into electrical energy
The layers of the structure operate together to produce energy. The first layer of concrete from the inside is covered by insulation as well as coils that regulate the temperature. The second layer is thin and contains photovoltaic cells. The other tapering concrete layers come in varying thicknesses that range between 3 centimeters and 12 centimeters respectively from the edge of the roof to the supporting structure.
The thought behind this project was twofold. First, the architects aimed to demonstrate that solar power is an effective renewable energy source even in large cities with high pollution levels. Second, they wanted to show how this concept could enable sustainable housing design in densely populated areas, without compromising architecture or structural integrity.
This is the cement that has the capability of absorbing sunlight and then emitting light from the energy it has stored and that can reduce the energy bills, especially in outdoor spaces. This was made possible by modifying the optical properties of Portland Cement. Researchers from Mexico successfully made the material increase its ability to absorb and radiate light. This was made possible by adding special additives to the cement by condensing the raw materials properly.
The material was able to emit light for up to 12 hours, enough time for people to get back home at night. The researchers believe that with proper funding, this could be developed into a marketable product.
All of these advancements show how concrete can be used in new and exciting ways to improve our built environment. As these materials go into production, they can be used in existing infrastructure and buildings to increase their effectiveness.