Friday, September 29, 2006

Concrete: innovation hotbed

One of the next great areas of technological advance may be right beneath your feet. Concrete, the ubiquitous construction material responsible for millions of miles of paved highways as well as countless gloomy Soviet-era apartment blocks, is undergoing a high-tech renaissance. So says The Economist, which features it in the current issue's Technology Quarterly section.

Concrete embedded with tiny conductive fibers allows bridges and roads to be kept free of snow and ice without damaging salt and plowing. Spray-on concrete can create inexpensive housing in poor areas which is durable, well-insulated and hurricane-resistant. Who knew there was so much room for innovation in such a humble material?

According to the Economist, every year one cubic meter of concrete is put to use for every person on earth—making it the second-most used material after water. Could that amount yet increase? It's a concrete possibility.

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