Thursday, 6 April 2006

It's concrete, Jim, but not as we know it.

Progress is unpredictable. Great ideas and advances in one field can impact unpredictably in others. And some of the best ideas are often obvious once they're done. Exhibit A: light-transmitting concrete.

Just add optical glass glass-fibres to concrete and, hey presto, light-transmitting concrete. I can't wait to use it. :-)

LINKS: LiTraCon website [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

TAGS: Architecture, Science


  1. Oh yeah. We smile and say it's clever now.

    But one day, and soon, the next step will be taken and we'll have one-way-mirror concrete too. Why ever not?

    And it only takes one missing lorry load of this concrete and people will start crashing into invisible force-fields. Marcel Marceau and his entire guild will become obsolete overnight!

    You never think about these things.

  2. Imagine if they had been making shower blocks out of this stuff in Benson-Popes time at Bayfield...the mind boggles ;-)

  3. As you say- a BFO- blinding flash of the obvious!

    The simplest ideas are often the truely great ones.

    I would be interested in the reduced need for lighting in a structure of this material.

    This chap has quite possibly done more for energy conservation than all of NZ's greenies put together ever will!

  4. I was emailed this a few years ago as well, and I see the website still has it 'under develompent' [sic].

    Still, I heartily agree with PC, that the product (if available) would make a welcome addition to any of my next projects!

    To Oswald Bastable, I know your comment was probably in jest, but the energy efficiency benefits through natural lighting gains would be thoroughly offset by the remarkably high embodied energy inputs in the manufacture of such a complicated building product, and it's transport from Hungary.

    I'd be interested to read more about it's suitability for external use - accretion of any foreign material would impact it's ability to transmit light to a large degree so it would be wickedly high-maintenance, and as it couldn't be clad over, or lined on the inside face, it would have to have some fairly excellent insulation properties to be suitable for most NZ climates. The skimpy 'product data sheet' simply says 'possible' under 'heat insulation,' so I imagine that means dialling back the density of the fibre optic strands, and probably affecting compressive strength as well.

    Bottom line is that on the face of it, it only looks suitable for use as an interior feature, transmitting artifical light.

  5. SO much bloody negativity (realising Giles's was in jest).

    This is porecisely what my mother was looking for to fill in the void in my parents' house.

  6. "Bottom line is that on the face of it, it only looks suitable for use as an interior feature, transmitting artifical light."

    Wouldn't you just love to see structural members made of this!? 32-49N/mmm2 isn't bad, and as you say it's still only early days...

    And just think how much cheap optical fibre will be available once the next generation of fibre optics gets rolled out, and the current (early) stuff gets scrapped. ;-)

  7. Actually, I'm still hanging out for a chance to spec some glass beams, but perhaps the use of a combination of glass beams, structural glass floors, these concrete fibre-optic blocks, and structural glass blocks will see me rocket to my richly deserved architectural super-stardom...

    Fingers crossed.

  8. michael fasher6 Apr 2006, 19:26:00

    Holcim have developed concrete in which the stone agregates have been replaced by plastic(recycled possibly) which is 30% lighter for the same strength,potentionaly you could utilise transparent plastic.The second only New Zealander to win the Noble Prize for Chemistry developed plastic that is conductive of electricity so maybe conbining those two technologys has some potential.
    Check out another unrelated energy saving device that holcim is adopting called Skysails which will be mounted on holcims new cement ships being built in Singapore.Basically a parasail scaled up to be able to pull up to 50,000 tonne displacement ships reducing fuel consumption by up to 50% and annual costs by up to 25% and a simmilar reduction in sulfur dioxide emmisions.

  9. Won't the glass beams creep, Den? How about glass-fibre concrete beams?

    In any case, I hope I'd get an invite to the house-warming. :-)

  10. I think as a rule glass beams are post tensioned to avoid any failure through deformation - never seen one in real life, I think only firms who can afford Arups get to use them!

  11. SO much bloody negativity (realising Giles's was in jest).

    Doubt my sincere commitment to the welfare of street mimes will you!?

    Then I have this message for you, from the mimes:



    And they don't mean that lightly.


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