Imagine a building being so “intelligent” that it automatically repairs itself if a problem occurs. The stuff of science fiction?
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.
Never Paint Again uncovers major research into construction materials that could pave the way for self healing buildings.
Before you read further, please note we do NOT sell this product.
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.
UPDATED 25TH JANUARY 2018. NOPE, NOT ON THE MARKET YET!
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 in walls 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!
This would mean, for the UK and Irish homeowner, that cracking in render could become a thing of tha past as the house repairs itself! (It would make our job easier, I assure you!)
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 masonry 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.
Imagine an exterior wall coating for the outside of houses, which would last upwards of 100 years, which would also provide the home owner with completely FREE electricity WITH NO SOLAR PANELS, and would also insulate the entire property into the bargain!
Fact or fiction?
In this industry we always like to keep our ear to the ground just in case something amazing comes along, and would you believe it, something amazing HAS come along!
Like most industries, the paint industry is in constant flux with both changing consumer demand and trends, and also the release of new and/or improved paints and coatings from time to time.
We looked at the emerging possibility of paints and coatings made with a super durable compound called graphene and it’s potential to create the longest lasting exterior wall coating on the market.
Graphene was first discovered back in 2004 by Andrew Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, who went on to claim the Nobel physics prize in 2010 to an amazed crowd of experts in white coats and clipboards (I would think!) who must have marvelled at it’s properties.
Nothing like this had even been seen before and it’s potential uses are limited only by the imagination.
Graphene is harder than diamonds but is actually transparent, being as it is only one ATOM thick (!) but it could also conduct electricity, something that the mobile phone and electronics industries are currently researching its use.
Already sounds like something that Doc Brown would invent, along with a flourish of “Great Scott!”, whatever the hell that meant.
The possibilities of Graphene
The team at Singapore University who were researching this, found that layers of this material combined with another very thin material called dichalcogenides, not only reacted to light, it also conducted electricity.
More recently, the University of Manchester took this to a new level when they found that Graphene could have a significant role in the next generation of paints and coatings. (Which is when we started to take notice of this!)
The team found that even a very thin layer of paint made with Graphene can make impermeable (damp proof) and chemically resisting coatings which they found would make an ideal rust proof paint.
The material they could produce was named “Graphene oxide solution” and it soon became clear that any paint or coating that contained this substance would be an ideal, breathable paint film, potentially allowing houses to have a super tough exterior wall coating, but with longevity and durability far outstripping anything available on the market today.
They noted that the material, under dry conditions, is vacuum sealed, but under wet conditions, allowed small molecules to pass through, suggesting the possibility of a water-tight but fully breathable paint film, one that would repel all inclement weather but still allowing natural movement of the house.
They noted that…
……..This contrasting property is due to the structure of graphene oxide films that consist of millions of small flakes stacked randomly on top of each other but leave nano-sized capillaries between them.
Water molecules like to be inside these nanocapillaries and can drag small atoms and molecules along………. (Source: Manchester.ac.uk)
Put into layman’s terms, the new material, Graphene, when combined with certain paints and coatings could, in theory, revolutionise the exterior wall coatings industry, rendering normal masonry paint surplus to requirements.
…and here’s the crazy bit….
One utterly bonkers notion is the fact that as Graphene conducts electricity, it could be used in solar panels to be far more effective at capturing energy however this is still in the early stages yet and last year in Wired magazine they said…
“….One of these new types of material is paint which would theoretically be capable of generating electrical power. “We are working on paints using this material as our next work but that is further down the line,….” said Novoselov.Source: Wired.co.uk 2013
Which means that in the near (?) future, not only can you have a lifetime lasting coating on your home, it will also act as a giant receptor for solar energy (yes, the PAINT itself), meaning that your WALLS will generate solar power for free as part of your new paint job!
Personally I cannot WAIT for this technology to become available, rest assured we WILL offer it.
Imagine the paint on your house actually acting as a solar power generator meaning your electric will be complete FREE and renewable!
What does this promise for the future of wall coatings?
Hopefully the current collaboration between the University and the paint conglomerate Azko nobel, will mean this amazing wall coating idea could turn into reality over the next few years.
For ourselves, this would mean no more “20 year guarantees”, oh no, we could be possibly looking at 50 YEAR GUARANTEES or more on paints and coatings, so as you can see we are very keen to see how this research progresses and what it means for you, the consumer.
This equally applies to our highly popular Invisible wall coating system here, which we offer a comprehensive guarantee, but if graphene was added, the coating would potentially last until the house falls down of it’s own accord in 100 years time!
The new system would not be just for the walls of buildings though as they noted that the system could potentially see coatings being applied to almost any surface that needs some form of protection.
The possibilities of Graphene smart coatings are endless.
The fact that it conducts electricity, and therefore the possibility of data transfer across its surface also, the things you could with this are endless.
You could change the look of your home DAILY. Why? we don’t know.
If you painted all the walls inside your home with this, one flick of a switch and the walls would change color.
You could paint a wall with Graphene smart paint, connect it via a special interface (yet to be invented?) and control a giant TV screen via a smart phone or tablet, serving streamed movies or TV.
ADVERTISING potential abounds as, in theory, any one’s spare “side of a house” could be an advertising billboard, with interactive ads, Google PPC ads maybe, plus you could advertise your own business on the side of your home.
FLOORS could also be painted with graphene floor paint, which would be very hard wearing to say the least, and could carry images along the floor such as adverts, directions in a large building for visitors, a virtual guide almost.
CARPETS and floor coverings in the home? Just imagine painting bare floors with graphene and being able to link it to an App and change the look of the floor when you like?
Imagine lush green 3-d grass in your home? WEIRD EH? Sort of messes with your mind.
So what protective masonry coatings are on offer currently?
Well we of course are still using 20th century technology as the wall coatings we use have been around, largely in the same form, since the 1970’s.
The biggest change over the years in external coatings was the removal of lead in paint, plus the removal of asbestos, which was contained in more or less all spray applied wall coatings during the 1970’s.
Nowadays, wall coatings, the type that can be applied to the outside of your house, will last usually upwards of 20 to 25 years, which is long enough in anyone’s books really, I mean, who reading this can think 25 years ahead?
But what it DOES mean that in the future, although we don’t know when, we can see the possibility of supplying you, our loyal clients, with the longest lasting, most durable external wall coverings on the planet.
Until then, you will have to make do with our 20 year guaranteed exterior coating, the details of which can be found in the menu at the top of this page!
Science is a wonderful thing and we will keep this new material on our radar until someone actually releases it on the paint market, but until then, thanks ever so much for reading and I hope you will SHARE this article with others.
Resource: For more information on Graphene, see the tweets from the Uni Of Manchester below