The European market for nanocomposites is predicted to grow from 23,000 tons (2006) to 120,000 tons in 2016. Recently, nanotechnology started to be introduced in the construction industry enabling the development of materials with improved or totally new properties.
Nanocomposites for instance have offered a great opportunity in sustainable construction/green building application due to their efficiency and environmental protection.
Nevertheless, the successful penetration of these innovative materials in the market faces some technical, economic and regulatory challenges that NANOLEAP project will address and overcome.
Markets look at two main criteria when evaluating new materials: performance and cost. In terms of performance, nanocomposites have already shown its big potential to provide traditional materials with exceptional properties (e.g. in terms of performance, new functionalities, resistance, etc.) the major uptake of these materials would depend on the ability to make the products at a cost competitive to the traditional material and manufacturing process.
The four applications identified by NANOLEAP are aligned with the trends for construction industry and enjoy promising market perspectives.
- Functionalization and pre-treatment of nanoparticles: The modification of nanoparticles surface has been adopted by most of the industries to obtain tailor-made products with the desired functionality for a specific application (conductive, hydrophobic, anticorrosion). With the growing understanding of methods to functionalize nanoparticles it is likely that functionalized nanoparticles will become an important tool for nearly every sector of the economy, and construction will not be an exception.
- High performance nanocomposite coatings: Nanotechnology based coating products have shown remarkable growth in recent years with BCC Research reporting in January 2010 that the nanotechnology based coatings market was projected to grow to $17.9B in 201537. Nowadays, annual direct cost of metallic corrosion in Europe is estimated € 200 billion. Anti-weathering coatings aimed at the reduction of maintenance cost in civil infrastructure are one of the most exploitable markets of nanocomposite coatings. Furthermore, the biocide properties provided by some kind of nanoparticles such as Ag and graphene are rapidly leading to commercial paintings for housing and building.
- Multifunctional polymeric systems and smart functionalities. Light weight composite façade systems based on polymeric membranes have a significantly lower weight than their counterparts such as concrete or glass. The number of smart materials and smart material systems has grown exponentially over the last ten years being hydrophobic and self-cleaning the most demanded functionalities among the building and construction community.
- Mechanical reinforcement and thermal stability of lightweight materials used in the building industry for thermal/acoustic insulation such as aerogels. Due to the trend to more straight building regulations in terms of energy-efficiency the market of aerogels as lightweight and high-performance insulator was a value of $647.3 million in 201338. Cost of production is the main concern to allow the mass adoption of aerogel by the market.