Can Nanotechnology Help Create Habitat Equality?

Nanotechnology is working its way into the construction industry and it could have a profound affect on leveling the playing field for all types of construction.

frd-without-wordsNanotechnology refers to materials with particles of less than one nanometer (.0000000001 meters). They have already worked their way into our lives without us realizing it. For example, sun-block is one product where they are already in use.   Nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide act as an ultra violet scavenger and protect the skin from UV rays.

Nanotechnology is being applied in the construction industry as well.  It has been successfully applied to products like concrete and coatings to repair cracks or scratches to surfaces. When a crack forms in the concrete, failure fractures bubble up a binder and this heals the material. Nano particles can be used in coatings to make them weather resistant or to absorb less moisture which could minimize mold growth. We are using these particles to manage energy by preventing heat gain in surfaces of buildings or as phase change where heat is temporarily stored and released when needed. 

So what does this have to do with habitat equality?  It is a social responsibility as well as a business outlook.  It must be our goal to use highly efficient systems in all types of construction. Historically, materials or systems that reduce energy consumption in buildings or add durability to help buildings last longer have come at a price premium. As a result, these types of products or systems have not been used in affordable housing (where they are needed the most)!  Some emerging nanotechnologies are offering us the chance to get these same values at a much lower cost. This may allow us to remove one of the economic barriers to having sustainable and healthy habitats.

It has been said, “If you see a turtle on a fence post you can be certain he did not get there by himself.”  This is a great analogy for how we may have to look at creating solutions for our buildings.  A complex set of circumstance has gotten us on this unhealthy fence post and it may take a complex set of solutions to get us off it again

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 

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  • Very exciting to hear that CertainTeed is working with nanotechnology, and even better to hear that you consider it a way to deliver sustainable and healthy habitats to all.

    Can you provide some examples of nano-enabled products reducing energy consumption or adding durability at much lower cost?

    • Thank you for your comment. It is nice to hear from a renowned expert in the field of nanotechnology. I would suggest that for obvious reasons, I can say very little about what technologies we are investigating for our own product development opportunities. I could point out that energy savings will be first realized through low voltage lighting, super efficient insulation, and on-site power generation through integrated photo-voltaic’s. Some of the costs associated with these various technologies are a bit high now but will come down very quickly when they become integrated into construction products because of the volume of the market place. Some of the up-front costs are already lower such is nanophotovoltaic’s vs. silicon based technologies. Here the nanotech is already 1/5 the cost of traditional technology. In other products, the cost reductions only become realized during life cycle analysis. By making products more hydrophobic, mold resistant, or durable, they last longer and become cheaper.