Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nanomaterials in Construction

My previous post painted a general overview of the potential of materials science and engineering, such as in building science and sustainability.  In this post, I'll be presenting a few examples.

Via ScienceDaily: Researchers from Rice University and UCLA have recently reviewed examples combining nanomaterials and construction materials, or Manufactured NanoMaterials (MNMs).  A few of the many examples provided in their 2010 paper include (see [1], below): Carbon nanotubes in concrete for mechanical durability and crack prevention; Titanium dioxide nanoparticles in cement for self-cleaning properties, and in glass for solar energy-collecting properties; Iron oxide nanoparticles in concrete for abrasion resistance; Copper nanoparticles in steels for corrosion resistance; and silver nanoparticles in paintings for antibacterial properties.

Before full-scale application can be implemented, a number of issues must first be addressed.  In [1], for example, the authors outline "12 Principles of Ecologically-Responsible Construction Nanotechnology", which aim to address valid concerns such as MNM toxicity, carcinogenicity, contamination, disposal, and waste.  Also important to consider is the cost of these materials.  It has been suggested (see [1]) that that cost of MNMs will decrease due to 1) small additive ratios of the nanomaterial components, 2) further general development of nanomaterials, and 3) increase in production quantities.

In short, at the research level there is a great deal of nanomaterials science and engineering for construction, and there is a long list of potential as well as demonstrated advantages offered by MNMs.  Reviews on the subject include:

[1] J. Lee, S. Mahendra, and P.J.J. Alvarez.  Nanomaterials in the Construction Industry: A Review of Their Applications and Environmental Health and Safety Considerations.  ACS Nano, Vol. 4 (2010) pp. 3580-3590.
[2] Z. Ge and Z. Gao.  Applications of Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials in Construction.  First International Conference on Construction in Developing Countries (ICCIDC-I) (2008), pp. 235-240.  (Available On-Line.)
[3] W. Zhu, P.J.M. Bartos, and A. Porro.  Application of Nanotechnology in Construction: Summary of a State-Of-The-Art Report.  Materials and Structures, Vol. 37 (2004) pp. 649-658.

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