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Scientists and engineers have developed some remarkably innovative construction materials you should know about before your next construction project.
Sustainable and eco-friendly construction practices create structures that are more energy efficient, durable, and kinder to the environment. Learn about some innovative construction materials you should know before you start your next construction or remodeling project.
Solar Power Glass
Harness the power of the sun with solar power glass. This versatile material does more than just act as a transparent barrier—it generates clean and renewable energy by converting sunlight into electricity. This power-generating glass can reduce overall energy consumption, and using it could potentially result in tax credits for installing solar power generation options.
Is there such as thing as wood you can see through? Engineers originally created transparent wood by soaking balsa wood in a special chemical solution to remove lignin, an organic polymer in wood. But this process created some nasty liquid waste, and it weakened the wood.
Researchers at the University of Maryland recently came up with a better way to make transparent wood by only removing the part of lignin that gives wood its pigment. They painted the wood with hydrogen peroxide and exposed it to UV light. Afterward, they washed it off with ethanol and filled in pores in the cleaned wood with a special epoxy. The result was stronger than the original transparent wood, and it allowed 90 percent of light to pass through. It’s also stronger and lighter than glass. Balsa wood grows quickly, and making transparent wood costs less than making glass and uses less energy.
Cracked concrete is a common headache for homeowners and contractors alike. Self-healing concrete technology addresses this issue by using bacteria that produce limestone as a by-product, sealing the crack before it grows. This method results in increased durability, reduced maintenance costs, and enhanced sustainability. Because the concrete heals itself, you don’t have to consume additional materials to repair or replace it as often.
Synthetic roof shingles are more energy efficient, durable, lightweight, and fire resistant than other types of traditional roofing. The benefits of synthetic roofing may include lower installation costs and fewer repairs over a longer lifespan of the roof.
Hemp Insulation and Hemp Rebar
Hemp, which has eco-friendly properties, has entered the construction world as an innovative insulation and rebar material. Hempcrete, a combination of hemp and lime, provides excellent insulation and structural support. Hempwool is a form of insulation made of 90 percent natural fibers. And a team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a way to use hemp with thermoplastic instead of rebar to reinforce concrete without rust!
Stay cool and save energy with hydro ceramics. This innovative material absorbs and releases water to regulate indoor temperature naturally. Hydro ceramics provide superior insulation to traditional materials, reducing energy consumption and providing cost savings on cooling systems.
Many of these innovative construction materials are still in the early stages of development. But keep an eye out for the new, more energy efficient and sustainable building materials becoming more widely available in the not-too-distant future.