Explore Engineering | November 11, 2017

Video Treats // Concrete & Masonry, Windows & Doors, Insulation & Air Sealing, Tile, Flooring, Drywall

Transparent Aluminum and 9 Other Construction Technologies that Are Coming Down the Pike


In this video, the robotic 'narrator' asks multiple questions about construction innovations of the near future.


10. Self-repairing concrete

The most widely used construction material in the world. Smart concrete heals its own cracks with built-in sodium silica capsules that rupture upon cracking.


9. Carbon nanotubes

A nanometer = one billionth of a meter. Tubes of carbon that are one-nanometer wide have the highest strength to weight ratio of any material on earth and can be stretched a million times their thickness.


8. Transparent aluminum (3:20)

The strength of metal and the transparency of glass could completely change how we build skyscrapers and aquariums. A ceramic made from aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen is the base material. The aluminum powder is put under imense pressure heated for days at 2000 degrees C and polished to be clear


7. Permeable concrete

Stormwater runoff is a major source of water pollution. Permeable concrete is made with larger grains of rock and sand and lets water flow through.


6. Aerogel insulation (5:52)

One of the least-dense substances on earth. Aerogen is almost weightless and demonstrates superinsulating properties—2-4 times the insulating properties than foams.


5. Temperature-reactive tiles (6:54)

Thermochromic paint changes color with temperature. At room temperature, the tiles are glossy black. when you touch them or place a cup of coffee on them, they turn iridescent blues, greens, and yellows.


4. Robot swarm construction (7:50)

Robots based on termites' genetically-programmed modes of behavior work together to with internal rules for finding empty spots and getting out of each others' way. No one controls them, but they are programmed to complete a specific design.


3. 3-D Printed houses (9:15)

Full-scale houses are an actual thing now. People are doing it all over the world. Houses can be printed or components can be printed and assembled.


2. Smart roads (10:34)

A road that charges electric vehicles wirelessly. Yup.


1. Building with CO2 (11:24)

Genetically modified yeast can convert CO2 gas into solid carbon-based building materials. Inspired from abalone which does something similar.

MIT researchers isolated one of the abalone enzymes to reproduce a batch of yeast that can make the solid carbon material.




I first heard of transparent aluminum on Star Trek, so this is truly futuristic. I love the tiles that change color. Our industry embraces new techniques and products so slowly, I won’t live long enough. Thanks for the telescope in time. 

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