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What does Nanotechnology Offer the Construction Industry?

Enterprise Technology Review | Friday, November 08, 2019

Nanotechnology has made inroads into several fields, but some of its most exciting and useful applications are tailored for the construction sector.

FREMONT, CA: The potential of nanotechnology in the field of construction is vast. The emergence of nanomaterials has given rise to several new possibilities in the rapidly evolving construction industry. The growing awareness regarding sustainability and the increasing demand for smart buildings are central to ongoing transformation. With the innovations driven by nanotechnology, the construction industry is being able to take major steps towards delivering smarter infrastructures. Today, buildings being constructed are more energy-efficient, materials being used are environment-friendly, and raw material processing is less polluting. A vast range of innovative nanoparticles is changing the construction for the better. Some of these innovations and their applications are listed below.

• Nano-coating the External Walls

Maintaining the external walls of buildings is a rather tough job. Although external paints do offer protection, in the long run, most of them become ineffective. Nano-coating is a better alternative as it gives outer walls better protection against factors like dirt and weather. Several innovative nanomaterials are today being applied to coat the walls and make them water and dust repellant. The nanomaterials are extremely thin and transparent and, thus, do not affect the look of the walls. However, a single layer of nano-coating can ensure easy cleaning of walls, ensuring they remain appealing for years. Protection from UV rays and scratch proofing of walls are also possible with advanced nanomaterials.

• Nanomaterials for Energy Efficient Buildings

Nanotechnology is enabling the construction of buildings that are energy efficient. High energy use in commercial and residential buildings is considered highly unsustainable. Among the several measures and technologies that the construction industry has adopted to reduce dependence on energy, nanotechnology is a major one. Applying innovative materials developed with nanotechnology can impact heating, lighting, and air conditioning in buildings. By improving the properties of glass, nanotechnology is giving rise to the use of smart windows. These windows can be added to buildings to optimize energy use. Besides, easy cleaning and UV protection make these glasses especially appealing.

 It is also possible to develop highly insulating materials with nanotechnology. Applying coatings of these insulating materials can prevent buildings from heating up during the day, reducing the need for cooling systems. Nanofoams and aerogels are already seeing widespread adoption. 

• Enhanced Properties in Raw Materials

All the raw materials used in construction are now in the process of an upgrade. Nanotechnology is providing cement, concrete, and steel with new, desirable properties. From making metals stronger to enhancing the characteristics of concrete, nanotechnology is enabling it all. In a few years, there one can expect to see commercially viable self-healing concrete that will make maintenance a thing of the past. Cement will get faster drying property and attain air purification capabilities. Carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers are major contenders in this category of nanomaterials. In addition to that, nanotechnology is also enhancing the fire-resistance of buildings, resulting in safer infrastructure.   

• Environmental Friendly Processing of Cement

The global cement manufacturing industry is considered to be highly polluting. Nanotechnology has the potential to change that. By tweaking the current production process, it can bring down the carbon dioxide emissions in cement manufacturing. Thus, the carbon footprint of the cement industry will reduce.

As nanotechnology develops further, one can expect to see the emergence of smart buildings with intelligent nanoparticles embedded into the building materials. This might give rise to futuristic buildings that can respond to stimuli and thus attain unimaginable functionalities.

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