Cement is one of the most widely used materials in construction, but also one of the largest contributors to harmful carbon emissions, said to be responsible for around 7 per cent of annual global emissions. Cracking is a major problem in construction, usually caused by exposure to water and chemicals. Researchers at Bath University are looking to develop a self-healing concrete, using a mix containing bacteria within microcapsules, which will germinate when water enters a crack in the concrete to produce limestone, plugging the crack before water and oxygen has a chance to corrode the steel reinforcement.
Efficient insulation material is becoming increasingly important throughout the construction industry. Heat transmission through walls tends to be passed directly through the building envelope, be it masonry, block or stud frame, to the internal fascia such as drywall. This process is known as “thermal bridging”. Aerogel, a technology developed by Nasa for cryogenic insulation, is considered one of the most effective thermal insulation materials and US spin-off Thermablok has adapted it using a proprietary aerogel in a fibreglass matrix. This can be used to insulate studs, which can reportedly increase overall wall R-value (an industry measure of thermal resistance) by more than 40 per cent.