Wednesday, 5 September 2012

University competition - Current living - Conductive concrete

A few years ago during the architecture degree myself and two of my friends entered a proposal into an innovative concrete competition. Our idea was to re-envision how we think about walls as architectural components. With modern technology it is becoming more and more exciting. Just today I watched a video about turning any wall into a touch screen device by utilising sensors that can record vibration through the material - it reminded me of this competition entry and the idea that a wall can have a live layer within it, allowing you to 'plug in' anywhere. Of course there are all sorts of interesting questions about materiality and safety - we don't want to be electrocuting ourselves after all.. Still it is nice to open your mind freely to new ideas and concepts for how we can live our lives!

For anyone interested in the science:

1. Adding electrically conductive elements to a regular concrete mix
to achieve a conductive capacity to provide thermal and electrical
properties. Harnessing the potential of concrete as a “skin” to be
manipulated. i.e. In this case providing a thermal capacity, or applying
current through it to create a light source.

2. Possibility of the development of this technology to be harnessed
in all new builds involving exposed concrete surfaces – the
technology could remove the need for installation of separate
under floor heating systems, externalised radiators and even
wired light fittings.

3. Electrical conductivity can be embraced in the form of a thin layer
used to provide adequate power for lighting systems, which would
be introduced at the casting stage either pre-cast or in-situ. The mix
may be different to provide thermal capacity, but this could be laid as
a slab/screed to allow for heating benefit. The conductive concrete
can be connected to mains power, and thus a reliable light source
can be obtained.

4. The energy transmitted by free electrons travelling through the
charged concrete is changed from kinetic energy to the form of
thermal energy when it bombards the concrete molecules. This
thermal energy is stored by the concrete mass and thus it heats any
connected space by radiation/convection.

5. The inherent resistivity of concrete, which is an insulator is an
unmodified dried state, is such that it may be possible to overcome
this by providing a skim coat of plaster to the conductive surface,
while still allowing for thermal energy to pass through.

6. The production of our hybrid adds no more to the embedded
energy cost of the production of normal concrete, as the component
added to provide conductive capacity is a waste by product of the
steel manufacturing industry. Coke breeze is normally landfilled, and
using it in this way provides opportunity to turn waste material into a
new and exciting technology.

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