Astronauts make cement in space for the first time


European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst works on an experiment aboard the International Space Station looking into how cement reacts in space.

Concrete could provide humans in space with better protection from radiation and extreme temperatures than many other materials.

In the future, when humans live in and visit space, they’re going to need places to stay and work. That calls for durable infrastructure such as concrete. For the first time, astronauts made cement in space as part of a project looking into the effects of microgravity, NASA said last week.

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The future of construction may be concrete that generates its own electricity


We need buildings in which to live, but crafting those buildings is making it harder to live on this planet. As much as 10% of global carbon emissions come from the production of concrete. One ton of CO2 is generated by making one ton of cement, which is made from limestone and a few other things heated to an extremely high temperature.

But what if concrete could generate its own energy? The era of photovoltaic concrete may be getting closer. Photovoltaics, which work by converting light to energy via semiconducting, are starting to migrate from solar panels into the building materials themselves.

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This new 3D-printed house was built by a portable robot in just 48 hours


There are a lot of 3D-printed houses popping up these days, but this is the first time an architect with the renown of Massimiliano Locatelli of CLS Architetti and Arup has tackled one. Built out of a special quick-drying mortar, the 1,076-square-foot house was constructed in just 48 hours. Locatelli envisions 3D printing as the housing of the future – and that his house could be constructed anywhere,”even the moon.”

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Rubber sidewalks could eliminate the hazards of concrete

rubber walkway

Rubber sidewalk

We may not give a second thought to the ground we walk on, but a new rubber tile market has emerged and with it, a new and creative prospect for the future of municipal walkways. There are companies presently at work whose sole focus is trying to provide a viable alternative to the concrete under our feet. Despite concrete’s reign as the preeminent construction material for sidewalks, companies that manufacture rubber tiles— such as Terrecon and Pavegen— are looking for a piece of concrete’s market share.



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ERO Concrete Recycling Robot can ‘erase’ entire buildings

ERO Concrete Recycling Robot

The annual production of concrete in the world is estimated at about 6 billion cubic yards. It’s an alarming situation that has potentially devastating environmental effects. Consider that concrete under normal conditions has a lifespan of just 60 to 80 years–meaning that a significant number of the world’s buildings and bridges will have to be upgraded, if not entirely rebuilt, within our lifetimes.



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Re-healable concrete to undergo key outdoor testing

Bacterial spores are added to the concrete mix and they are activated by water.

A concrete that patches up cracks by itself is to undergo outdoor testing. The experimental concrete contains limestone-producing bacteria, which are activated by corrosive rainwater working its way into the structure.  This new material could potentially increase the service life of the concrete – with considerable cost savings as a result.



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Japanese researchers transmit electricity through solid concrete


The researchers used a set of modified tires set on top of the concrete.

Thanks to researchers from Toyohashi University of Technology, the dream of having electric cars without limited range is one step closer to reality.  The group showcased an experiment with the ability to send up to 60 watts through almost four inches of solid concrete.  Although the technique they are using isn’t exactly new, they did manage to squeeze out between 80 and 90%t efficiency is.

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‘Sensing skin’ for concrete would detect tiny cracks


MIT researchers tested the ‘sensing skin’ by attaching it to the underside of a concrete beam, then applying enough force to cause tiny cracks to form in the beam under one patch of the skin.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), in 2009,  assigned a grade of “D” to the overall quality of infrastructure in the United States, saying that ongoing evaluation and maintenance of structures was necessary to improve that grade. Since then, federal stimulus funds have made it possible for communities to repair some infrastructure, but high-tech, affordable methods for continual monitoring remain in their infancy. Instead, most evaluation of bridges, dams, schools and other structures is still done by visual inspection, which is slow, expensive, cumbersome and in some cases, dangerous.

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