Nanomaterials and Their Use as Construction Materials

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The construction sector has seen many recent develops in the field of nanotechnology. The chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials are intended to be widely used in the construction industry. Nanomaterials can offer significant benefits for a variety of applications, ranging from more durable concrete fabrication to self-cleaning windows.

The various nanomaterials and nanocomposites are being considered for various uses in the construction and related infrastructure industries. At the nanoscale, these materials can behave differently than their counterparts at the conventional scale, which create exciting new prospects in the variety of construction applications.

Particularly in the construction sector, nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, and nanofibers offer the potential for developing much stronger, tougher and more durable structural materials, as well as new functional materials and systems.

The Nano-enabled Construction Materials

By 2025, more than 50 percent of building materials are expected to contain nanomaterials as more people take benefit of these lighter, stronger, and more energy efficient materials.

Bill Looney, Environment director of AECOM

The ordinary concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, water, and admixtures. The addition of nano-silica (SiO2) to cementitious materials can reduce the calcium-silicate-hydrate (C-S-H) reaction caused by the leaching of calcium into the water, thus blocking the water diffusion and improve the durability.

Carbon nanotubes increase the compressive strength of cement mortar and change their electrical properties, which can be used for health monitoring and damage detection. The addition of small amounts of carbon nanotubes can bring benefits to strengthen and monitor concrete. The titanium dioxide (TiO2) added to concrete can give the ability to break down dirt and then allow it to be washed off by water on everything from concrete to glass windows.

The addition of copper nanoparticles reduces the steel the surface unevenness which limits the number of stresses and, consequently, fatigue cracking. The vanadium and molybdenum nanostructured are used to improve the strength, reducing the effects of hydrogen brittleness and also improving the microstructure of steel.

The nanoporous silica aerogel materials can be used as base materials of the vacuum insulating panels, but they are moisture sensitive, much thinner and lighter than traditional materials for equivalent thermal insulation. Another application of silica aerogel products is transparent insulation, which leads to the possibility of super-insulating windows.

The use of TiO2 nanoparticles is to coat glazing since it has sterilizing and anti-fouling properties. Due to the photocatalytic processes of nanoparticles; organic pollutants, volatile compounds, and bacterial membranes are broken down. The fire-protective glass is obtained by using fumed silica (SiO2) nanoparticles as a clear interlayer sandwiched between two glass panels that turn into an inelastic and opaque fireguard when heated.

Nanotechnology is applied to paints to protect against corrosion under insulation since it is hydrophobic and repels water from the metal pipe and can also protect metal from salt water attack.

The fire resistance of steel structures is sometimes provided by a coating produced by a spray-on cementitious material. The mixture of cementitious material and carbon nanotubes has the potential to create a tough, durable, high-temperature coating. The nanofibers of polypropylene are also considered as a method of improving fire resistance, which may be less expensive than conventional insulation.

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