Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Concrete

A new nanoparticle-based coating is said to repel water from porous materials, while still...

Keeping porous building materials free from stains and water damage has gotten a little easier in the past few years. Thanks to advances in technology, we’ve seen the advent of things such as spray-on glass and anti-graffiti coatings. Now, Spanish nanotech company TECNAN is offering a nanoparticle-based coating that repels liquid, yet still allows the underlying material to breathe.  Read More

The 'Exposed' speakers are made of concrete, and utilize horn loudspeaker technology (Phot...

We've seen a number of unusual speakers before, such as the Whamodyne glass speakers or Solid Acoustics' dodecahedron speakers, but concrete speakers are definitely something new. It's definitely not a very popular material for audio systems, but Israeli designer Shmuel Linski would like to change that with his "Exposed" concrete speakers, each of which weighs 123 pounds (56 kg). They're just one part of his line of unusual creations, that include a concrete coffee maker and a concrete canoe.  Read More

Tubohotel in Mexico houses rooms created from recycled concrete tubes (Image: Luis Gordoa/...

Though the idea of sleeping inside a concrete tube probably doesn't sound that appealing, architect firm T3arc have found a way to make sleeping inside a pipe not only comfortable but also a holiday experience. Mexico's Tubohotel, which opened in 2010, is a unique and affordable holiday destination created from recycled concrete tubes. Located approximately 45 minutes south of Mexico City in the village of Tepoztlan, Morelos, the rooms of the hotel are stacked in a pyramid shape, reflecting the Aztec pyramid of El Tepozteco that overlooks the town.  Read More

In the MIT laboratory, researchers tested the 'sensing skin' by attaching it to the unders...

Concrete may be one of the toughest buildings materials in common use but it does develop cracks over time, and in the case of structures such as buildings or bridges, it is imperative that those cracks are noticed before they lead to a collapse. While visual inspections are useful, they are also time-consuming, and may miss tiny but structurally-significant cracks. Some technologies have been developed to automate the process, such as rust sensors for steel-reinforced concrete. Now, an international team of scientists is proposing a system of flexible crack-detecting skins, that could be applied to the surfaces of concrete surfaces.  Read More

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

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.  Read More

Plastisoil is a concrete-like substance made from discarded plastic bottles, that rain wat...

A new cement-like material that could be used to form sidewalks, bike and jogging paths, driveways and parking lots, may be able to lessen two environmental problems, namely plastic waste and polluted rainwater runoff. The substance is called Plastisoil, and it was developed by Naji Khoury, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Temple University in Philadelphia. In order to make Plastisoil, discarded polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles are pulverized and mixed with soil, and then that mixture is blended with a coarse aggregate and heated. The result is a hard yet non-watertight substance, similar to pervious concrete or porous asphalt.  Read More

Looks like a job for BacillaFilla (Image: Shaire Productions via Flickr)

Earlier this year we took a look at the development of self-healing concrete that repairs its own cracks using a built-in healing agent. While this kind of technology holds promise for construction in the future, it’s not so useful for the vast amounts of existing concrete in need of replacement or repair. UK researchers have come up with a solution to this problem that uses bacteria to produce a special "glue" to knit together cracks in existing concrete structures.  Read More

Bricks made for the Seville/Strathclyde study

In a collaborative study on sustainable building materials, researchers from Spain’s University of Seville and Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde have created bricks that contain sheep’s wool and a polymer derived from seaweed. Clay-based soils were provided by Scottish brick manufacturers, while the wool came from Scotland's textile industry, which produces more of the stuff than it can use. The polymer was an alginate, which occurs naturally in the cell walls of seaweed. Mixed together, the three substances resulted in bricks that were reportedly 37 percent stronger than regular unfired bricks.  Read More

One of the Air Clean paving slabs in a laboratory setting

Last month, we told you about an experiment with air-purifying concrete that was recently conducted in the Netherlands. Researchers resurfaced 1,000 square meters of a busy road with concrete paving stones that contained titanium dioxide (TiO2), a photocatalytic material that removes automobile-produced nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the air and converts them into nitrate with the aid of sunlight. When the air was tested up to one-and-a-half meters above those stones, NOx levels were found to be 25 to 45 percent lower than above regular concrete on the same road. Now, a similar study is underway in Germany, and is already showing promising results.  Read More

Michelle Pelletier with her self-healing concrete

Self-healing “smart building materials” have the potential to reduce structure repair costs, lower cement-production carbon emissions and even save lives. One barrier that has kept these materials from being commercialized, however, is their potentially labor-intensive and thus expensive production process. Recently, an engineering student from the University of Rhode Island (URI) announced that she has developed a self-healing concrete that would be inexpensive to produce.  Read More

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