Imagine a building being so “intelligent” that it automatically repairs itself if a problem occurs. The stuff of science fiction?
Never Paint Again uncovers major research into construction materials that could pave the way for self healing buildings.
The concept of a building being able to “heal” itself seems rather far fetched, but recent research into concrete has uncovered a self-healing concrete that could vastly lengthen the lifespan of buildings, and reduce carbon emissions and repair costs.
Much research has been done over the past few years of self-repairing coatings and maybe one day NEVER PAINT AGAIN could offer this (When its been invented of course!) as that would mean we could offer a lifetime guarantee!!
However a while ago there was a report on self replenishing coatings which highlighted……..
“Amongst many intriguing phenomena happening in nature, the extraordinary ability of living-organisms to heal remains striking and this is too good of a hint, for scientists to miss it! Incorporating self-healing mechanisms in materials provides a longer service life-time, lower maintenance and repair costs and increased safety levels, due to lower failure rates. For this reason self-healing materials is currently one of the most active research areas”
So in some ways, self healing coatings actually already exist, so we wait with anticipation for the day when you can buy self repairing paints and exterior wall coatings.
Self repairing concrete
The latest piece of research, which comes direct from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, is the concept of SELF REPAIRING CONCRETE which could revolutionise the construction industry. The research is headed by microbiologist Henk Jonkers and also concrete technologist, Eric Schlangen.
The pair say that the product could actually be on the market as soon as 2015.
Concrete cracks. Fact.
When buildings are made with concrete or render, there is always the risk that the material will crack, so steel reinforcement is used to help prevent this and to give the concrete tensile strength to bear loads, such as the weight of a roof etc. In fact it is expected the concrete is going to crack, even when it is drying out, tiny cracks often appear in the surface.
When these cracks become bigger over time, air, water and other minerals etc, can get inside the concrete, and rust the steel reinforcing rods, causing what is known as CONCRETE CANCER.
Many prefabricated homes suffer from this, Cornish units being the best known example.
What if concrete and render were able to repair itself?
Although it sounds crazy, the research from Holland would suggest that in the near future, self-repairing hard walls and concrete could actually become a reality!
It works by adding a mix of granules of a special bacteria and nutrients, into the concrete mix.
Of course like any micro organism, and that also includes mould that you may find on a wall, need water to grow. That is why when your house walls let in water, mould appears because the water is there to create growth.
With a concrete wall, it is watertight, and the granules (WHICH ARE calcium lactate, A BY-PRODUCT OF MILK) and THE bacteria stay in the wall in an inert state, i.e. they dont do anything, but when the wall cracks, and allows water to enter the wall, the spores activate.
The harmless bacteria that is introduced into the concrete belong to the Bacillus genus. When water gets into the wall, the bacteria feed on the additional nutrients added, and this actually produces limestone! -
The Dutch lead the field in materials innovation.
A few years ago, self healing coatings were pioneered in Holland, by Prof Bert de With of the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands .
The team, working in nano-technology discovered that by adding something called Functional molecules – for example “hydrophobic” molecules that repel water and dirt – can be coated onto the surfaces of products.
Prof de With and his team found that by attaching these molecules on the end of polymer “stalks” and mixing these throughout the coating, any that are removed by scratches are replaced by a new, self-orientating layer.
The result is that any coating, such as an antibacterial layer, would be “self-repairing” after small amounts of damage, as the molecular chains just below the damaged layer re-cover the surface. (SOURCE. BBC SCIENCE)
The future of coatings and concrete
With the above borne in mind, it could be suggested that the very nature of the built environment could change in our own lifetime and we will see increasing use of technological advances in building materials.
One day, if our houses develop cracks, no longer will you have to call a builder out to replace the render because the intelligent wall coverings that will be in use, will automatically cure their own defects!
Coupled with major advances on wall coating technology too, one day we can look forward to a completely maintenance free house, constantly repairing itself, fixing its own cracked paint or wall covering, and making sure the structure is defect free.
In the mean time, we cant offer you lifetime guaranteed work, but we can offer you exterior wall coatings and renders that last upwards of 20 years.
That’s a start anyway. Thanks for reading
Copyright Guy Alexander Bell. Bsc.(hons).Pg.Dp.
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