Houses throughout human history have been made from all sorts of materials depending on the available resources based on geographical location. We’ve seen houses built from mud, bamboo, wood, clay, even ice. Nowadays, modern houses are usually built from a combination of bricks, wood, and concrete. But technology in the form of construction project management software programs, robotics, and new construction materials are slowly changing the construction industry as we know it. New technological innovations are rapidly shifting how projects are being managed, how buildings are built, and what they are made of.
Imagine a house that repairs itself so you never have to worry about cracks, a home that absorbs pollution, or how about fitting your home with a solar panel made from transparent wood? These may sound like something straight out from a science fiction novel, but these materials are real and are currently being studied if they can be deployed for mass production. Let’s take how innovative construction materials will shape our future homes.
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Houses will Be Able to Heal Itself
Most of the modern houses that we know of today are built from concrete- the second most used substance on Earth after water. Concrete is easily available and is inexpensive, but due to its low tensile strength, it also cracks when exposed to extreme heat, cold or pressure. Even microcracks can be harmful because it can spread and can damage the structural reinforcement. Usually, to fix a crack depending on its severity, you can use an epoxy repair kit or a filler compound. The worst case scenario would be that you would have to be demolished wall because the structural integrity has been compromised that it can’t be repaired.
However, in the near future, houses can be built using self-healing concrete that can repair microcracks. This kind of material is not new and has been in development for over a decade or so. Self-healing concrete was first discovered by a Dutch microbiologist named Henrik Jonkers in Delft University when he added limestone-producing bacteria to the concrete mix. The research has since then continued and engineers and scientists have found new ways for concrete to ‘self-heal’. These include the following:
- Autogenous Healing. Autogenous healing is basically the way concrete repairs itself with the help of moisture. This can be done by adding dehydrated cement as well as microfibers in the concrete mix. Research shows that a crack that’s .1 mm will heal within 14 days and cracks that are .2mm wide will heal within 28 days using this method.
- Adding Hydrogels and Superabsorbent Polymers. When a crack happens, the hydrogel and SAP are exposed to the moisture in the air. And when it does, this material swells and seals the crack. And, after that, some more chemical reaction takes place that eventually heals the crack.
- With the help of calcium carbonate-producing micro-organism. Simply put, very small organisms that produce calcium carbonate input in a microcapsule or in SAP and, added in the concrete substance. Once there is a crack, and the material is exposed to moisture, these organisms will start to produce calcium carbonate and will start to seal the crack.
Future Homes Will Be Made from Space Age Technology
For those who are fans of Star Trek, transparent aluminum is a substance that starships windows and portals are made of. And what was once just science fiction, is now a reality. Transparent Aluminum or Aluminum oxynitride is not really aluminum but is a form of ceramic that has been invented and patented in the 1980s. This material is very hard and bullet resistant, and, if you want to get technical about its hardness, it scores a 7.7 on the Moh’s hardness scale. Currently, it is being sold under the name ALON, by a company named Sumet.
Future Homes Will Be Able to Passively Filter Pollution
Air pollution is becoming an increasingly big problem especially for people who live in cities. Because of this indoor air quality has become a big issue. Companies have been quick to answer this problem by building devices that use energy that’s active ( example electricity etc.). Unfortunately, using this process releases even more carbon and other air irritants into the environment if used for a long time.
To answer this conundrum, C. Trudell, an assistant professor teaching at the Cal Poly San Luis San Obispo school of architecture invented the “Breathe Brick”
This experimental brick was built to be incorporated into a building’s HVAC system. The idea of this brick is pretty much like how a vacuum cleaner works. The brick has what they call a cyclone purification which is located at the center of the brick. This separates the heavy contaminants from the air and deposits them into a removable container located at the base of the wall which can be disposed of regularly as part of the building’s maintenance.
Although still at the experimental stage, tests have shown that the bricks have successfully removed 100% of granular particles from the air and about 30% of fine dust. The bricks are also inexpensive to make, so if all goes well, we might be able to see residential high rise buildings made out of these bricks.
Future Homes Will Be Made from Graphene
Graphene is one of the new materials that scientists are calling the next wonder material. Graphene is made of the same material as graphite – or pencil lead. The only difference is how the carbon atoms are arranged. In graphene, carbon atoms are arranged in a single layer hexagonal matrix. And it is in this arrangement that makes graphene the strongest and lightest material on earth.
Chemical make-up aside. Graphene is 200 times stronger compared to steel, and 200 times lighter than paper making it an amazing material to be used for construction.
There is ongoing research about how graphene can be used in construction. There are scientists who are experimenting on graphene 3D printing and making a lot of headway.
Other scientists like Monica Craciun, a nanoscience professor at the University of Exeter has experimented with graphene to be used as an alternative to concrete. The experiment consisted of suspending graphene in water and using this liquid as a main ingredient for concrete blocks. The tests found out that the concrete made from this material was twice as strong than regular concrete, more elastic, and four hundred percent more water resistant. What this means for construction that buildings can be built with half of the material needed and can last three times longer compared to when using concrete. This is also good news for the environment as this means that it can cut carbon emissions into half. Graphene-based concrete is a win-win situation for the construction industry and the environment.
The Future of Our Homes
Although some of these materials are just in their testing phase and might not yet be a staple in residential construction in the next decade or so. And even if they are already available, it might take some time before people can get used to the idea of using new and alternative materials in building their houses. One thing is for sure though that the future of our houses that the human race will live in the future looks very promising- with research focusing on materials that are light and durable while respecting the environment, homes of the future are really something to look forward to.