As we turn our eyes toward a new year, we all wonder what this new year will bring. Driven by new developments in technology and increasing concern for the environment, construction material development will see significant changes in the next year and beyond. Here are two big changes in construction material development.
AI Will Make Better Materials, Faster
By now most of us have seen videos of Deepfakes. If you haven’t yet, check out this video. A bit scary, right?
The good news is the AI technology behind Deepfakes has other uses besides creating very real looking fake videos. Researchers at Penn State University have discovered it is very useful for developing new alloy materials.
There are rules, or patterns, that our faces generally follow. For example, when you genuinely smile, your eyes squint. This is how AI develops those Deepfakes – it’s just a matter of following the rules. The AI program spends time learning the rules and then can spit out faces that follow those rules.
In development of construction materials, the AI technology works the same. Much like faces, alloys also have rules.
The Penn State researchers developed a generative adversarial network (GAN) to help them come up with alloys that can handle extremely high temperatures without losing strength. The GAN consists of two neural networks that learn the rules for the alloys before coming up with examples that follow those rules.
“Our preliminary results show that generative models can learn complex relationships in order to generate novelty on demand,” Zi-Kui Liu, Dorothy Pate Enright Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State, told Science Daily.
Traditional methods rely on human brains to think up the new alloys. This initial step of thinking up the potential compositions to test is the slowest part. AI can work much faster than the human brain. AI can generate 100 or 1,000 potential compositions in milliseconds.
AI generators also aren’t bound by the same constraints as the human brain. There are often hundreds of variables that can change, and the human brain isn’t capable of wrapping itself around those all at once.
Humans are still needed. The model isn’t perfect and the options it develops still need to be tested. However, AI can give researchers a much better starting point than they previously had when development new materials.
Trash Will Make Its Way into Nearly Everything
Environmental concerns are driving most of the new material development research. We want to find materials that rely on less virgin materials and that have a reduced carbon footprint. This is especially true for the concrete industry, as concrete production has one of the biggest impacts on the environment.
The answer, it seems, is trash. More and more research has been looking at recycling waste products into useable building materials. Everything from wastewater biomass, to spent coffee grounds has been researched as a possible building material. Plastic waste is showing promise as a large area of future research.
Using trash has two main benefits. The use of recycled material reduces the carbon footprint by minimizing virgin material used. And the use of waste materials removes that waste from our landfills and waterways. While the use of waste materials isn’t a new trend, we can expect to see it grow in 2022.