Building Technology Update for Feb. 6, 2010

February 6, 2010 at 7:24 pm Leave a comment

Space age materials coming to a building near you that will make them last longer, require less maintenance and possibly even in some ways repair themselves!  Sounds kind of like a side show barker in carnivals of old doesn’t it?

Well all of the above and more may be just over the horizon.  First up is an existing, very cool technology, aerogel.  Aerogel, also known as frozen smoke has been used in space suits and in the Mar’s Rover missions and is potentially the best insulating material around.  However it is very expensive, but as you can read at Treehugger ( that may be changing.


“Aspen Aerogels has started selling aerogel blankets for use as insulation in buildings.

“Aspen Aeorgels says that its Spaceloft blankets have two to four times the insulating value per inch compared to fiberglass or foam. It’s also relatively easy to work with, allows water vapor to pass through, and is fire resistant–a common demonstration of aerogels is to have a person fire a Bunsen burner below the aerogel while putting a hand on the top side.” (source)

The fact that it’s just 2 to 4 times better than fiberglass or foam makes me think that they paid a pretty big performance price to bring costs down, since pure aerogel would provider higher thermal insulation, but it’s still a pretty big step in the right direction. We’re not talking about a few percent improvement. Over time, in a big building, this could represent a lot of heat that would otherwise leak out (or heat that would leak in when the air conditioning is on).”

Next up we something a little more prosaic in a process for trapping CO2 from industrial flue gases and using the resulting calcium to make concrete .  The story is on Ecofriend ( and it seems like a very simple process.


“The company’s process converts carbon in industrial flue emissions into components of concrete and asphalt. The process, Carbonate Mineralization by Aqueous Precipitation, or CMAP, involves running flue gases through pH-adjusted seawater or alkaline brine water. This converts the CO2 to calcium and/or magnesium carbonate that can easily be precipitated and dried and later used as cement.”

Now we start to get really out there with a Hydrogel that may be strong enough to replace plastics. Now I don’t really pretend to understand the science on this one, but these gels that are virtually petroleum free constructs really cause the imagination to soar!  The story is again on Treehugger ( and in the article they are saying that this stuff might what the robot in Terminator 2 might have been made of because of its self-healing properties.


“The humble scientists reporting on their wonder material have only gone so far as to say that it could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, solve environmental problems with plastics and… it is self-healing. Imaginative souls will immediately speculate on the amazing applications materials engineers might dream up. Visionaries have gone so far as to compare this new hydrogel to the liquid robot from Terminator 2. What is the trick?”

Lastly tonight we have the item that to me seems to have the greatest overall potential.  Scientists in Turkey have come up with a spay on liquid glass that if what is being said is true could really change the world.  The story is lots of places but Treehugger had the best write up (


“The flexible and breathable glass coating is approximately 100 nanometres thick (500 times thinner than a human hair), and so it is completely undetectable. It is food safe, environmentally friendly (winner of the Green Apple Award) and it can be applied to almost any surface within seconds . When coated, all surfaces become easy to clean and anti- microbially protected (Winner of the NHS Smart Solutions Award ). Houses, cars, ovens, wedding dress or any other protected surface become stain resistant and can be easily cleaned with water ; no cleaning chemicals are required. Amazingly a 30 second DIY application to a sink unit will last for a year or years, depending on how often it is used. But it does not stop there – the coatings are now also recognised as being suitable for agricultural and in-vivo application. Vines coated with SiO2 don’t suffer from mildew, and coated seeds grow more rapidly without the need for anti-fungal chemicals. This will result in farmers in enjoying massively increased yields . Trials for in-vivo applications are subject to a degree of secrecy, but Neil McClelland, the UK Project Manager for Nanopool GmbH, describes the results as “stunning”. “Items such as stents can be coated, and this will create anti sticking features – catheters , and sutures which are a source of infection, will also cease to be problematic.

This is truly amazing stuff that I hope proves out and comes to market soon if only for the anti-graffiti properties for buildings!

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