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The application of nanotechnology in various building products and materials showed tremendous progress in the construction industry. As nanotechnology is a science that controls the dimensions in the transition zone at the atomic level, the products developed from this method gain extraordinary functionalities. The main focus now is to study how these functions can contribute to sustainable building construction.
The article enlists some perspectives to understand the beneficial side of nanotechnology to implement sustainable construction.
Sustainability of Nano-materials in Construction
The construction materials used with nanotechnology gain novel functionalities with unique characteristics. It is used in materials like cement, concrete, glass, paint, etc.
For example, in concrete, the use of nano-silica or micro silica is a highly recommended application. The addition of micro-silica enhances the mechanical properties, the durability, and the elasticity of the concrete. The reduction of cement in concrete by the addition of micro-silica also claims to reduce the amount of energy consumption and CO2 emission.
Some of the essential sustainable construction applications using nanotechnology are explained below:
- Use of Nano-materials with Construction Materials
- Use of Nanotechnology for Repair
- Use of Nanotechnology for fire protection
1. Use of Nanomaterials with Construction Materials
Incorporation of nanomaterials in Cement and Concrete is one of the popular solutions from nanotechnology. It works against the disastrous outcomes from cement and concrete structures to the environment. The use of nanomaterials with cement and concrete increases the following properties of the mix:
- Strength and durability of concrete
- Hardness of concrete
- Ductility of concrete.
Different nanomaterials used with cement and concrete are:
- Silica and Nano clays
- Nano Iron (Fe2O3)
- Nano Alumina Al2O3
- Zinc Oxides
- Titanium Oxides
Nanotechnology in Cement and Concrete
The silicon dioxide nanoparticles help to increase the compactness and assembly of the concrete. The self-sensing, flexural strength, compressive strength, and self-cleaning properties of the concrete are improved by incorporating nano-iron & nano-titanium in cement or concrete.
The decaying structures can be protected by fiber wrapping that consists of nano-silica particles and hardener. The nano-silica also plays a vital role in closing the split observed in the outside face of the concrete structure.
Nanotechnology in Steel
Copper nanoparticles introduce the role of nanotechnology in steel materials. Incorporating copper nanoparticles with steel helps to smoothen the steel surface. Smooth surface avoids the chances of cracking and prevents fatigue cracking.
Modification of the steel using nanomaterials gain higher strength ductility and fatigue resistance. The steel hence can withstand adverse climatic and corrosive environmental conditions.
Nanotechnology with Glass
The next innovation is the use of nanomaterials with glass. The combination permits the windows to gain property to regulate the amount of light passing through it and the building walls. It is hence a means of energy conservation as it reduces heat loss.
The efficiency provided by glass treated by nanotechnology was found 75% more than ordinary glass. It is because the glass reduces the thermal loads that are transferred to space by solar radiation. It also provides daylight, thus reducing the need for artificial lighting.
2. Use of Nanotechnology for Repair
The property of nanostructures to self-heal harmed surfaces of the structure brings tremendous advantage to the construction industry. The use of nanosensors in structures helps to foresee the existing failures in the structures.
A concrete mix that has cracks are slowly recovered by a healing agent released by the rupture of microcapsules. The healing agent is filled in the crack by capillary action. The agent, with the help of catalyst embodied, starts to polymerize and close the cracks.
3. Use of Nanotechnology for fire protection
Nanotechnology can be used as starch-based coatings, nanofiber mats, hydrogels, and Polyetherimide nanocomposites foams to increase fire resistance.
The non-inflammable characteristics and heat resistance of plastic material can be optimized by the addition of nanostructured silicate particles into it. It is used for the manufacture of cable insulations, electric sockets, fuse boxes, and appliances. A nanomaterial like silicon dioxide can withstand the fire of 1832F for more than 2 hours.
Positive Impacts of Nanotechnology in Construction
Nanotechnology has many positive impacts on the construction industry. For instance, 2000 million tons of cement is manufactured every year that contributes to 5% of global anthropogenic carbon-dioxide emissions. The use of nanotechnological innovations like belite, calcium sulfo aluminates, and calcium alumino ferrite can decrease the carbon-di-oxide by 25 percent.
The essential positive impacts of nanotechnology in construction are:
- The construction materials can be modeled with required characteristics to obtain maximum output and attain sustainability.
- Smart Nanoconstruction materials reduce the construction time.
- The number of laborers employed for construction decreases with a decrease in construction time.
- The overall energy consumption decreases.
- Improves the environmental quality of the building
The application and use of nanotechnology are numerous in the construction industry. Select the best option, keeping in mind sustainability and efficiency factors.
Effective Use of Nanotechnology in Construction Industry
Nanomaterials, however, are chemicals that must be used and dealt with planned regulations. Its use and handling is done with special precautions, or else it causes severe issues to human and environment.
Some of the suggestions provided by the researchers to effectively use nanomaterials are:
- An effective risk governance system for nanotechnological developments.
- Proper research and study on the sources, interactions, and risks from nanomaterials.
- Ensuring necessary enclosures related to the impact on living organisms and ecology. An impact assessment report on areas where nanotechnology is used must be made compulsory.
Frequently Asked Questions
Different nanomaterials used to produce efficient and sustainable construction materials are Silica and Nano clays, Nano Iron (Fe2O3), Nano Alumina Al2O3, CuO, Zinc Oxides, and Titanium Oxides. Variations of these basic materials are developed and used widely.
The building efficiency can be improved by using glass that is blend with nanomaterials. These specially treated glasses reduce the heat transfer through the building envelope hence reducing the thermal loads transferred to the space from the sun through radiation. Nanosensors can be used to detect the repair in structures, and early repairs are possible by this method. The use of microcapsules in concrete with high chances of crack formation helps to improve the "self-healing" properties of concrete.
The main issue with nanomaterials is its direct exposure to the environment and people handling it. This may cause health issues. Specially planned and designed rules and regulations for handling and working with nanomaterials is mandatory.
Nanotechnology can be used by starch-based coatings, nano-fiber mats, hydrogels, polypropylene fibers with concrete, and Polyetherimide nanocomposites foams to increase the fire resistance of building materials and components.