When most people think of construction materials, they think of wood, concrete, bricks, etc. However, these materials have faced competition from new innovative materials in recent years. These new materials offer different advantages, from eco-friendly manufacturing to sleek contemporary designs.
Here are the 11 most advanced construction materials used today:
- 3D printed graphene.
- Light-generating concrete.
- Liquid granite.
- Translucent wood.
- Cross-laminated timber.
- Biologically produced furniture.
- Self-healing concrete.
- Transparent aluminum.
- Rammed earth.
- Flexible concrete.
Emerging technologies are changing the face of all facets of modern society, and no less than in the field of construction materials. Keep reading for a breakdown of the most advanced materials used in modern construction. I’ll examine each material’s advantages and explore how innovations may shape the future of our buildings.
1. 3D Printed Graphene
Graphene is one of the most robust materials known to humankind. However, shaping graphene for construction purposes has either been far too expensive or impractical ever to use it. However, recent innovations in 3D printing have offered some exciting results.
Researchers have developed a way to 3D print graphene. The resin put into the 3D printer is a graphene oxide hydrogel. Once this resin sets, the graphene hardens into a robust and durable material with multifunctional applications.
3D printed graphene may be used to develop high-tech pieces like microchips, although graphene can also be used with concrete to offer an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete.
While 3D printed graphene offers many benefits and practical uses, 3D printed graphene costs about $100 per gram. As a result, using this material for large construction projects is unrealistic. However, in the future, the price of this material should reduce, making it a viable option for construction and manufacturing.
2. Light-Generating Concrete
The following advanced construction material on the list is light-generating concrete. Light-generating cement, or light-emitting cement, as it’s also known, is green cement that lights up without electricity. It works well by absorbing solar energy during the day and then emitting it at night.
Light-generating concrete was created by mixing fluorescent pigments into a concrete mixture. The primary application of this material is for roads. Roads require a vast amount of lights, and these lights need energy to work. The more energy we use, the more harm we cause to the environment.
This innovative concrete can significantly reduce the amount of energy needed to light up roads as it works entirely using solar energy. This form of concrete is also a great way of making roads safer, especially for pedestrians walking at night.
Light-generating concrete can be paved on dark country roads. This advantage offers light that makes the streets safer for all who use them. Increasing the lighting on dark roads will reduce the risk of accidents and save human lives. On top of this, this material will also save you money in the long run.
3. Liquid Granite
Liquid granite is an exciting alternative to cement. Cement is a fantastic material with many practical applications; however, cement production releases a large quantity of carbon into the atmosphere. Excessive CO2 released into the atmosphere is a primary cause of climate change.
Liquid granite releases far less CO2 than cement during production. This material comprises recycled materials, and it offers superior heat resistance to regular cement. The less carbon dioxide released during production and the 30 to 70 percent recycled materials used makes this an environmentally friendly alternative to cement.
The next significant advantage to liquid granite is fire safety. Regular cement can combust in extreme temperatures and poses a considerable fire hazard. On the other hand, liquid granite will not ignite or deform at temperatures below 1100 ℃ (2012 ℉).
4. Translucent Wood
Translucent wood is a construction material that offers terrific design possibilities. Not to mention the fact that it’s clear wood! Well, it’s up to 90% clear. The material is also shatterproof and resilient, making it a fantastic alternative to glass.
Translucent wood allows construction companies to build structures without windows that still allow significant amounts of light to enter a room. The result of this is sleek contemporary designs. Translucent wood also offers energy-saving benefits when compared to classic windows.
This innovative material is made by leaving the wood in a vat of sodium chlorite. This chemical is found in alkaline substances like toothpaste or bleach. This chemical removes a component from the wood that leaves it translucent.
5. Cross-Laminated Timber
Cross-laminated timber is the following innovative material that construction companies are using. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is made by gluing layers of timber to each other in a cross arrangement. The blocks of timber are layered in odd numbers, typically ranging from 3 to 7 layers.
CLT offers superior strength to timber as the opposing grooves in the layers included offer added strength. CLT is used for interior and exterior construction as it provides watertight, even airtight seals. CLT also offers quick and easy installation as it comes in ready-made blocks for installation.
However, there are some drawbacks to using CLT in construction. CLT is more expensive than steel, and height restrictions limit buildings that use CLT for structural support. This material is also more flammable than alternatives, and the fact that few manufacturers produce CLT means that shipping costs are high.
CLT can be used to create entire structures. In fact, tall buildings like small skyscrapers have even been constructed using this advanced form of timber. Structures made from CLT are also very durable, lightweight, and sustainable.
6. Biologically Produced Furniture
As with many of the materials mentioned on our list, biologically produced furniture is an environmentally friendly material, bound to succeed in the coming years. So far, the material is used to create chairs and other pieces of furniture.
The material is created by combining mushrooms, wood chips, and oat bran with a fungus called Ganoderma. The material grows into a chair and forms an external skin made of cellulose. As a result, scientists can grow furniture out of organic matter.
The implications of this research are huge. The organic matter used in developing this furniture isn’t harmful to the environment, nor does it cost a lot to produce. As a result, with some further development, people worldwide could use biologically produced materials to create furniture or even structures.
As yet, biologically produced structures or homes aren’t yet a reality. This advanced material offers a lot of promise as a cheap, sustainable, and elegantly stylish way of building structures.
7. Self-Healing Concrete
Concrete is a material used to create structures and surfaces like roads worldwide. Concrete is durable and resistant to wear. However, concrete has one major flaw; it cracks easily when temperatures change or due to installation errors. Luckily, there is a solution.
Using a bacteria called bacillus megaterium, they impregnate the concrete with the bacteria and its foodstuffs. The bacteria grow and spread when cracks appear, acting as a natural filler and preventing ‘concrete cancer.’
Self-healing concrete is at the forefront of harnessing biological processes in building materials. Cracks and gaps that spear in the concrete will slowly seal over without any intervention. This advance is significant because concrete structures can maintain their structural integrity and visual appeal for a long time after installation.
However, it’s worth noting that self-healing concrete is much more expensive than traditional concrete. On top of this, the material is rare, and few construction companies have experience working with the material. The result of this means that self-healing concrete is still some time away from being commonly used in construction projects.
8. Transparent Aluminum
Transparent aluminum is the second clear material to make the list. Transparent aluminum is a ceramic made of aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen. It’s almost 100% transparent, and it’s a sturdy material suitable for construction.
Transparent aluminum is featured in the iconic sci-fi series Star Trek as a material of the future. The future has arrived, and transparent aluminum is now a reality. Transparent aluminum has applications in microchips as a semiconductor.
However, transparent aluminum will primarily be used for defense and security purposes. Transparent aluminum is a better alternative to bulletproof glass, which one could use in banks or secure buildings. The material is also a prime candidate for body armor as it offers excellent ballistic protection.
Transparent aluminum, however, is over twice as costly as traditional clear armor. As a result, transparent aluminum has few uses until the prices decrease. For example, a 180-gallon (118.3 liters) aquarium would cost you somewhere between $30,000 to $100,000.
9. Rammed Earth
Rammed earth is a building material developed and primarily used in developing countries. Rammed earth is when dirt, gravel, earth, or like are compacted into a mold to do tricks. Once the rammed earth bricks are ready for installation, construction companies can use them to build walls, foundations, or flooring.
Calling rammed earth a modern material is an injustice. In reality, rammed earth is a process humankind has used for thousands of years. However, rammed earth has seen a significant resurgence in recent years as an affordable and environmentally friendly material ideal for constructing small structures.
Rammed earth structures can have exceptionally unique looks with contemporary designs, despite the material being first appearing in the Neolithic period. Rammed earth buildings also have fantastic insulation, making them ideal for use in very warm or cold climates.
Rammed earth structures are also durable and breathable, so residents experience excellent air quality in a sturdy building. Builders may also add steel and cement to rammed earth to boost the materials’ further durability and longevity.
The following advanced material used in modern construction is Richlite. Richlite is similar to hardwood, except it’s made entirely of recycled paper. As a result, Richlite is incredibly kind to the environment. Builders may use this material in place of plastics as cutting boards as well as in construction.
Richlite is used to give buildings unique features and stylish finishes. Richlite is robust and is often used to make stairs and modern outdoor features. As a result, Richlite is a material that is quickly growing amongst those designing their own homes and architects designing grand buildings.
Richlite is also an affordable building material. One of the most common uses of this material is countertops. This material’s robust and stylish nature means that kitchens have an eco-friendly and elegant centerpiece in their kitchen.
However, there are some drawbacks to using Richlite in construction. In areas of heavy use or traffic, this material may discolor. Richlite also has poor heat resistance and poor scratch resistance. As a result, Richlite is an expensive material to maintain as it deteriorates quickly.
Therefore using Richlite for construction will result in high maintenance costs, and the aesthetic appeal may diminish quickly.
11. Flexible Concrete
Concrete is a popular material with immense compressive strength. However, concrete has some flaws, primarily the poor tensile strength of the material. The typical solution is setting iron bars into the concrete to boost its tensile strength. However, this increases the cost, environmental harm, and material weight.
These flaws are what led researchers to develop flexible concrete. Flexible concrete can bend without warping, cracking, or breaking. As a result, one may use the material to build long-lasting roads and buildings. Structures made from flexible concrete will also be able to shift and move more manageably, giving the design additional protection against earthquakes.
Another disadvantage to traditional concrete is the high maintenance costs. Some US states pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile in highway maintenance every year.
In contrast, flexible concrete can bend and move with the road and the weight of vehicles passing over it. As a result, it won’t crack or deteriorate quickly, resulting in massive savings on highway maintenance.
Concrete is also a material that produces enormous amounts of carbon during production. Therefore, increasing the material’s longevity and reducing maintenance will significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Traditional concrete is also a very heavy material. As a result, many homes cannot support the weight of concrete on higher floors. However, flexible concrete is 20% to 30% lighter. As a result, less structural support is needed alongside the material, reducing construction costs.
- Science Direct: Recent progress and multifunctional applications of 3D printed graphene nanocomposites
- The Constructor: Light-Emitting Cement: A Sustainable Way to Light up Highways
- Science Daily: Liquid Granite: Building Material Of The Future Unveiled
- New Scientist: Wood can easily be turned transparent to make energy-saving windows
- Science Direct: Experimental analysis of cross-laminated timber panels in fire
- Design Indaba: Researchers Pursue Biologically Produced Furniture
- Science Daily: Self-Healing Concrete
- Ceramics: Transparent aluminum—from Star Trek to (almost) reality
- Your Home: Rammed Earth
- RichLite: Home
- The Constructor: Flexible or Bendable Concrete – Composition and Uses