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November 17, 2017

New Building Materials Nudge Homes Into the Future

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New Building Materials Nudge Homes Into the Future

While it doesn't look like we'll get our flying cars too soon, your clients may yet park their normal old cars in driveways attached to homes and buildings of a very different sort. Popular culture blog Gizmodo identified seven new materials and techniques that could lead to everything from taller high-rises to wallpaper that could charge your smartphone.

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A company called uBeam is heading the latter effort. Taking its cue from current wireless charging techniques, uBeam is working on techniques that use an ultrasonic sound transmitter to fill a room with inaudible energy. A receiver inside a wireless device can pick up the sound and convert it back to energy, letting you charge your devices while they're anywhere in the home -- even in your pocket. The transmitters can be placed around a home to provide full coverage.

Also in the energy realm, researchers at Michigan State have created solar cells that should help to make the energy collectors more pleasing to the eye -- by vanishing. Everyone has seen the large black panels that sit on roofs, and you may have encountered photovoltaic panels on windows that shimmer with rainbows, but Michigan State's new solar concentrators are transparent. This material can be used in windows and doors to create solar power.

Building materials themselves are also being upgraded. A team at MIT, for example, has studied bamboo's structural power to apply it to other materials. Even plywood could soon be stronger and cheaper and have less environmental impact, says Gizmodo writer Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan. And a company called Kite Bricks has developed bricks reminiscent of Lego blocks that snap together, but the holes can serve as conduits for the home's wiring and plumbing, allowing easy access for repairs and upgrades.

Other developments identified by Gizmodo include a new plastic that lights up in the wind, with potential for both decorative and emergency applications; carbon fiber rope that could double the height of high-rises by allowing elevators to more securely reach new levels; and a new paint technique that can detect when structural fissures have developed, which could benefit all buildings in earthquake zones and older buildings everywhere.

Source: "7 New Materials That Could Change How Our Buildings Act," Gizmodo.com (August 25, 2014)