Self healing materials are the thing of the moment with everyone trying to find ways to save cost on their builds after completion. Maintenance on materials such as concrete have a huge drain on the planet and our wallets. So surely the opportunity to work with a material that does all that work organically can only be a good thing? Well, let’s find out.
Firstly, there are a handful of different kinds of self healing building materials. Let’s outline those first.
The most popular and perhaps most eagerly investigated version of the self healing building materials is self healing concrete. Utilising bacteria which is activated either by rain or carbon dioxide - depending on the strain of bacteria used - to rebuild itself in the natural cracks which form with natural wear and tear.
"The most popular and perhaps most eagerly investigated version of the self healing building materials is self healing concrete."
There is also the concept of self healing coatings.
Fresh on the market, these coatings are another way in which the life span of concretes and other building materials can be extended. Made with polymers, and currently mainly in use in marine construction and the navy, the polymers react with one another if they rupture and break. This triggers a process of self healing.
"There is no reason polymer coatings can't be used for concrete in the future with further development."
Well some of the pros are pretty self explanatory. It’s concrete that heals itself, reducing the cost of ongoing repairs. Perfect. Yes please, and thank you.
Even the process of self healing is an integral part of why it’s such a wonderful building materials. Depending on the form of bacteria being used the walls you build can heal themselves with rain water - literally the same thing that damages normal concrete - and carbon dioxide!
So as well as the repairs costing nearly nothing financially, you’re also reducing the risk and cost for on-site workers. Fantastic news for health and safety, fantastic news for you!
"The self healing element creates huge savings on ongoing repairs."
The disadvantages are interesting and worth taking note of.
Quantities of self healing agents added to the concrete that exceed 20% will reduce the overall strength of the concrete. Less is very much more in this instance.
Not only this but self healing concrete requires the addition of calcium lactate which will push the cost of your concrete pretty high. Long term you’re looking at savings, but short term you may have some issues.
These are all things to consider when you look at whether self healing concrete is for you and your project. It could be that coatings are the way forward for you and your project. We recommend investigating graphene and its invaluable role in science and construction. Much like self healing materials, graphene is going to be quite the game changer.
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