197-NCM : Nanotechnology in construction materials

Technical Committee 197-NCM

General Information

Activity starting in: 2002

Subject Matter

Nanotechnology is defined as an 'area of science and technology where dimensions and tolerances in the range of 0.1 nm to 100 nm play a critical role'. Two distinct approaches to nanotechnology can be identified. 'Top-down' nanotechnology refers to the fabrication of nanoscale structures by machining and etching techniques, whereas 'bottom-up', often referred to as molecular nanotechnology, applies to the creation of organic and inorganic structures, atom-by-atom, or molecule-by-molecule. The term 'nanotechnology', therefore, means different things to different people. Nanotechnology has already had a significant impact on many aspects of life, albeit not always fully appreciated by the general public. It is not a homogeneous field, and several areas have already been substantially developed. Overlap with research in fundamental materials science has led to nanotechnology being increasingly applied in construction materials research and development and industrial applications of nanotechnology in construction have begun to appear. The construction industry, in spite of its conservative nature, will not be omitted from what is sometimes described as the 21st century industrial revolution. Despite all recent developments, an era in which structures will be constructed from 'close-to-ideal' materials produced in molecular assemblers by the 'bottom-up' approach is still very distant from now. Before the advent of such times, it is necessary to utilise advances in the 'top-down' approach to nanotechnology and in nanotechnology-based testing techniques in order to acquire much better understanding of the behaviour of existing construction materials. Such enhanced understanding of processes in complex construction materials has a potential to translate into much more economical use of materials, and can lead to construction materials of higher durability. In parallel, opportunities for the development of "new" super-performance construction materials will be pursued. The principal aim of the new TC-NCM will be to review the state-of-the-art in nanotechnology and identify where in the area of construction materials such technology already has, or shows a potential to have, a significant effect. A realistic view will be taken, unaffected by the occasional media hype attached to nanotechnology.

Terms of reference

It is very likely that, although the TC will examine the subject in its full breadth, it may, in the first instance, focus on areas where pilot work has already been carried out. This will include nanotechnology-based testing devices which provide entirely new means to improve our knowledge and understanding of both the micro-properties and the micro-fracture mechanisms of construction materials, which may include nano-sized ingredients. The TC-NCM will open a new and very broad area of both fundamental and, later, applied R&D. It will therefore represent a path-finding "horizontal" committee. The core membership initially derived from those with experience in the subject area and those working in sectors where immediate applications are most evident. However, additional experts from non-construction sectors of science and technology, where nanotechnology in one or more of its guises has already become well established, will be included to assist in the "transfer" of nanotechnology into the construction materials (and structures) domain. The composition of the membership is therefore likely to change substantially in the course of the work of the TC, with new members joining, representing the applied, industrial and user-side of construction industry. Nanotechnology is a fast developing domain. Time is therefore of essence. It is expected that the new TC will be approved in May 2002, aiming to hold its first meeting in September 2002 (within the framework of the 56th RILEM Week in Madrid, Spain). The total life of the TC-NCM is expected to be short, a maximum of three years, completing its work in late 2005. It is expected that by the end of its working life, nanotechnology-based approaches and equipment will have been adequately introduced/adopted into construction R&D to enable their utilisation in the work of specific "vertical" TCs. Provisional timetable: May 2002: TC-NCM is formally approved September 2002: TC-NCM formally commences its work, the 1st meeting. 23-25 June 2003: 1st International Symposium on Nanotechnology in Construction (Paisley, Scotland, UK) Spring 2004: State-of-the-art Report (published separately and in Materials & Structures) Summer 2004: Specialist Workshop on specific applications of Nanotechnology in Construction Summer/Autumn 2005: Recommendations for the applications and use of the most relevant nanotechnology-based approaches. TC-NCM closes down.

Detailed working programme

Overall aim is to: Carry out a comprehensive survey of the state-of-the-art of nanotechnology in its full breadth, indicating areas/sectors most applicable/relevant/promising for construction. Based on this, a widespread awareness is to be generated within the construction industry research & development community and amongst its practitioners and strategic management, of the opportunities which are provided by applications and exploitation of the relevant aspects of nanotechnology. Specific aim is to: Overall aim is to: Carry out a comprehensive survey of the state-of-the-art of nanotechnology in its full breadth, indicating areas/sectors most applicable/relevant/promising for construction. Based on this, a widespread awareness is to be generated within the construction industry research & development community and amongst its practitioners and strategic management, of the opportunities which are provided by applications and exploitation of the relevant aspects of nanotechnology. Specific aim is to: Provide information in different modes and media, which will assist both researchers associated with fundamental aspects of the science of construction materials and structures, and those working in applied industrial research in application of recent advances in nanotechnology. This will enhance the development of both fundamental knowledge and practical performance of new and established construction materials. Information transfer will be through events such as the 1st International Symposium on Nanotechnology in Construction, a Specialist Workshop, proceedings, articles/papers in M&S and by publication of the Recommendations for Nanotechnology-based Testing Methods. The programme will also include activities aiming to: " Assess the applicability of nanotechnology to R&D in construction materials and promote its adoption. " Indicate areas where high-quality, internationally-competitive research closely connected with the requirements and needs of the building materials industry is required, benefiting from the application of relevant aspects of nanotechnology, and promote its development. " Examine and publicise the capabilities in the micro/nanomechanical characterisation of construction materials using nanotechnology-based instrumentation and devices, and thus facilitate development of a new generation of 'nanoscale-engineered' construction materials. " Help the construction industry and its R&D to reach the forefront of international developments and match those in other industrial sectors and improve its public perception as a modern 21st century industry.

Technical environment

There will be immediate links to a number of both recently established and older TCs in the RILEM clusters: A. Microstructure and characterisation of materials (167-COM, 170-CSH, 180-QIC) B. Property evaluation and processing (NEC, ATC) C. Design and service life (178-TMC,179-CSD, SOC, HFC) D. Performance and deterioration (176-IDC, 181-EAS, 183-MIB, FHP, URM) The new TC-NCM will also establish contacts and collaborations with relevant national and international bodies concerned both with nanotechnology in general (Institute of Nanotechnology), with construction and standards. Linkage will be maintained with European and other national research projects concerning nanotechnology and construction.

Expected achievements

· Generation of awareness within the construction industry research & development community, amongst its practitioners and its strategic management of the opportunities which are provided by the relevant aspects of nanotechnology. · The TC-NCM will produce: i. State-of-the-art Report and a survey of existing potential applications in construction (2004) ii. Information packages on selected specific test methods, including good practice recommendations and interpretation of results (2005) · The TC-NCM will organise: i. The 1st International Symposium on Nanotechnology in Construction (June 2003), with the founding members of the TC-NCM acting as the members of the International Scientific Committee of the Symposium. An exhibition of nanotechnology-based testing equipment will be a part of the Symposium. Proceedings will be published in traditional and IT formats. (2003) ii. Relevant Workshop/s for those already actively involved in this subject area. Proceedings will be published in traditional and IT formats. (2005)

Group of users

The primary aim of the new TC is to raise the level of awareness and identification of applications of nanotechnology in the construction sector. Using appropriate media and IT modes it will address a broad audience from: academics and testing laboratories to industrialists, engineers and other practitioners, and to the general public. The latter aims to raise the general perception of construction as a 21st century modern industry.

Specific use of the results

The significance of the extension of nanotechnology-based testing techniques and nanoscale fabrication processes from the materials science domain to the area of 'real' construction materials cannot be overstated as such materials are ubiquitous and used in vast quantities. For example, concrete is the second most widely used commodity in the world only after water and there is approximately 1 cubic metre (2.5 tonnes) of concrete per capita cast in the EU every year. Therefore, envisaged advances, even if only incremental, in the performance of building construction materials, stemming from a better understanding and control over properties and fracture mechanisms assessed on micro/nanoscale, may have major economic impacts. Additionally, improved durability will ensure the reduction of repairs of structures, lower costs of maintenance and longer life cycle of the structures. The truly engineered new generation building materials, developed with the assistance of nanotechnology-based approaches, will guarantee better, more economical use of resources needed for their production, thus having a very positive effect on the quality of whole living environment. Nanotechnology has recently been adopted by the EU as one of its key areas for the 6th FP of research & development.

Active Members

  • Prof. Arnon BENTUR
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred N. PARTL