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Italian firm creates 'transparent cement'

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January 4, 2011

Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)

Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)

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Visitors to last year’s World Expo in Shanghai might have noticed that the outer walls of the Italian pavilion were kind of... unusual. Although they felt solid, and looked like concrete when viewed from an angle, light was able to pass through them. How was it possible? They were made from what the Italcementi Group refers to as “transparent cement,” and has trademarked as i.light. It’s definitely a unique substance, as it blurs the line between wall and window.

The material was created specifically for the pavilion, as architect Giampaolo Imbrighi wanted a building with transparent walls. While the exact fabrication method hasn’t been fully divulged, Italcementi states that it involves “an innovative cement/admixtures mix design.” That mixture reportedly bonds well with thermoplastic polymer resin, which is inserted into a matrix of 2-3 mm holes running through the width of each panel.

There are approximately 50 holes in each 500 x 1,000 x 50 mm (19.7 x 39 x 2 inch) panel, resulting in an overall transparency of about 20 percent – the pavilion also included semi-transparent panels, which had a transparency of 10 percent created by “modulating the insertion of the resins.”

Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcem...

Past attempts at similar materials have included placing fiber optic cables through a concrete mixture, although the Italcementi researchers claim that their product is much less expensive to produce, and allows light to enter from a greater number of angles.

Although i.light has yet to be made available for commercial use, it has already been suggested that buildings made with the material could save electricity that would otherwise be required for daytime lighting.

Via Popular Science and ConstructionWeekonline.in

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
8 Comments

Wow saving on daytime lighting.. That's amazing.. I might save 1% of of my electric bill.

Its a great idea, don't spoil it by saying it will save someone money or is environmentally friendly.

Michael Mantion
4th January, 2011 @ 06:44 pm PST

So it's not really concrete but more of a panel made from concrete with holes. We assume that they will let air in and out as well?

Would someone tell me what's the difference between this and a normal perforated metal cladding system?

It is obvious from the photos that this isn't a load-bearing material which concrete usually is...

agulesin
5th January, 2011 @ 07:30 am PST

Depending on how much unwanted heat is transmitted along with the light I would think large office buildings could save quite a bit.

drumalis
5th January, 2011 @ 08:52 am PST

These would cut down on lighting costs but also on air conditioning costs. Brilliant.

dsiple
5th January, 2011 @ 10:52 am PST

Air conditioning? Assume the air will be let in and out?

"thermoplastic polymer resin, which is inserted into a matrix of 2-3 mm holes running through the width of each panel."

This should explain things to agulesin and dsiple..........oh! I'm sorry, it is already in the write-up!

Terotech
5th January, 2011 @ 04:23 pm PST

Shouldnt the article be named "Italian firm refines 'transparent cement'"?

Considering LiTraCon has been on the market since 2004.

Cephas
10th January, 2011 @ 02:53 am PST

@Terotech - thanks for that -I missed that point!

agulesin
13th January, 2011 @ 04:07 am PST

Yeah, what Michael said.

And: Did I miss something? Wouldn't windows let in light too? Or is it an "art" thing? Pseudo/virtual/artificial windows: when *real* windows just won't do for the spoiled rich brat.

Fred Meyers
27th January, 2011 @ 07:31 pm PST
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