Nanomaterials in construction
We have had the bronze and iron eras, could the construction industry now be embarking on what will be known as the nano era?
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale using advanced equipment that is evolving every day.
This process has widespread possibilities and could prove to be a major disruptor in the construction industry with new materials being created that supercede traditional materials in every way.
Here are some of the materials already being manufactured and the others that could become available in the near future.
Graphene: the catalyst for change in the construction industry
Graphene is the biggest revolution in nanomaterials and the one that has the most widespread applications to date.
The product is simple, a thin layer of graphite (like that found in pencils) has graphene extracted from it, a similar product with different atomic makeup.
By going into graphite at a molecular level and changing its makeup, scientists have created a product one of the strongest materials in the known universe with a tensile strength of 130 GPa (gigapascals) – more than 100 times stronger than steel.
Graphene is also being used in LED lighting, as anti-corrosion protective paints, as spray-on solar panels and in touchscreens.
Global supplier of high-performance nanomaterials Avanzare is preparing for the oncoming rush for nanomaterials by constructing its new 10,000 sqm graphene production plant in Navarrete Spain.
Avanzare is a Graphene Flagship partner and exploded onto the scene in 2016 a graphene additive for industrial resins that has been used for corrosion-resistant tanks and pipes for storage and transport of potentially explosive chemicals.
Locally, The University of Adelaide has launched the The Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation Hub in partnership with the Australian Research Council (ARC) to help further the commercialisation of graphene.
The other nanomaterials
While graphene is the most popular nanomaterial at present, it was not the first.
Nano-titania, nano silica, nano-ZnO, and nano-silver are all engineered products that are now used in environmentally friendly paints. These paints can actually purify the air by absorbing greenhouse gases and producing oxygen.
Nano silica, nano-clays, carbon nanotubes, nano-alumina and nano-titania are all products that been developed and are being introduced to perform various functions in steel beams and concrete. These products all have different functions when introduced to different materials, like converting gases into air, strengthening the product and protecting sealants.
What is next for nanomaterials?
The World Nano Foundation has been formed to assist research and provide funding to develop new products.
Its ethos is clear – each new product should come with a true point of difference while being simple enough for the average person to understand.
The Foundation, housed in the UK, was launched in 2015 and is hard at work on research and development, testing and assisting other bodies with their own work.
Products like graphene and environmentally friendly paint could be just the tip of the iceberg, with this Foundation, Australia’s own Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation Hub and other bodies working towards truly changing the materials we use to construct everyday buildings.