Our built environment faces growing pressure from ongoing challenges surrounding climate change, urbanisation and resistance to environmental stresses. Nanotechnological research is developing stronger and more sustainable building materials which have a less negative impact on our planet.
In 2004, researchers from the University of Manchester gained two Nobel Prizes from developing ‘graphene’ - a supermaterial. The material is comprised of a single layer of carbon atoms in a hexagonal lattice, which results in super strength and excellent conductive qualities. The material is also extremely flexible and light yet, as the researchers say, “one hundred times stronger than steel”.
Recently the University of Exeter incorporated graphene into concrete, which they discovered, creates a stronger, more water-resistant material. The material is also four times as strong as concrete and halves the amount of concrete needed to construct a product. This “low-cost” method has great implications for the construction of strong, durable buildings as the process uses less material and produces less greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the material’s water resistance makes it suitable for construction in areas that are hard to reach, while the strength of the composite makes buildings more resilient to future environmental pressures. What is more, this technique could be copied by incorporating other nanomaterials into concrete which will pave the way to further innovations in the industry.