Trend #3: new “building materials” for the new world

Author: Ury Smirnov. Category: Subjective rating of changes. Date:15.01.2012, 15:16.

“The implicit trends that clearly change the way of life, way of thinking and attitudes of people in the future” are described in this series of posts. The forecasts are based on the results of continuous monitoring of news under the project “Subjective rating of the 2011 changes.”

It is human nature to exaggerate the importance of the things that surround him or that he wants to have. Perhaps that is why, the Internet, computer, landline/mobile phone, TV, car and other things without which we can not imagine our life occupy the first positions in different sequences in many rankings, devoted technological advances of mankind already taking place in reality.

The first ten major inventions of mankind according to the American scientific community contrast with such “mercantilist” approach. Periodic Table of elements is on the first place on the list, published in 2007. Next six positions emphasize the importance of the opening of materials (from the iron and concrete to the glass and steel), from which our civilization was literally built during some millenaries. For comparison, the remaining three seats out of ten were for the invention of the transistor and the microscope and the discovery of X-ray diffraction.

Any rating, even the most authoritative, is subjective to some extent, because it reflects only part of reality. But the list of the American scientific community is an important reminder that the things and devices that define our way of life are just the tip of the iceberg, and the shape of the peaks is a matter of chance and “weather”. The third i-Pad yet not released or the automatic car Google already passed without a driver and crashes hundreds of thousands of kilometers is only a crown of technological progress, which is impossible without progress in the creation of new materials.

Every day brings news reports about the creation of new materials with amazing, fantastic properties for microelectronics, instrument, medicine, biotechnology, etc. However, most of them have a restricted specialized application, but all together they are changing day by day our world, the material basis of civilization.

It looks like we’re on the verge of revolution in the area of material of mass application, for example, in industry and construction. And this revolution will not necessarily be associated with nanotechnologies. May be those are right, who compare the potential impact of the recently invented a so-called metallic glass with the effect that had on the world the plastics industry in the twentieth century. The new material combines the strength and durability of the best grades of steel with the accuracy and ease of plastics processing: precise molding at relatively low temperature fabrication allow to metallic glass to avoid subsequent machining and, consequently, metal wastage.

A revolution in the industry of building materials may be implemented through the introduction of the so-called rapid prototyping technology. For example, building printer, developed by a team of Richard Buswel from the British University of Longboro, allows layered “print” of the whole blocks of the walls of any configuration and inserting the doors, windows, etc. in them. The project by Ginger Dosier, the winner of Metropolis Next Generation (international competition of technologies that contribute to solving global problems), rapid prototyping technology is also used for the manufacture of bricks, but instead of laser microbes “gum up” sand. Such technologies will significantly reduce production costs and simultaneously save the world from smoking pipes of the traditional building materials combines.

The share of the construction industry in the world GNP is relatively small. However, the branch structure of the global economy does not coincide with that of the average family spending. The couple, who dreams of the own apartment, house, sees the construction as, perhaps, the most important part of the economy. At the same time, people feel that something is wrong if they can change the trendy smart phones almost every year – but it take almost all the life to get the own home (and many people do not at all expect to earn enough ). Here in the U.S. they have tried to eliminate this imbalance with the distribution of low-cost mortgages – and the world crisis burst… Who knows: maybe the world economy exit from the current unhealthy state will begin precisely at a time when construction technologies will catch up to the level of technologically advanced industries, and construction costs will plummet?

In any case, the increase in housing affordability would strongly alter the social behavior of people, making them freer, more independent and enterprising. Would be less people who drudge at the hateful work, justifying a need to “provide the family with a roof over the head”. Would be more people who prefer to earn money doing what they like – and it always goes to the benefit of the economy as a whole…

To be continued.

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