Liquid wall

The Liquid Wall is a passive solar panel that contains a mixture of glycol and water that can absorb solar energy and travel into the building for domestic hot-water heating, radiant heat, and dehumidification. The Liquid Wall won an important AIA competition and was displayed as part of the exhibition “Innovate: Integrate.” The panels are constructed of Ductal ultra-high-performance concrete that reduces the required material mass by 80% relative to other precast concrete wall products. UHPC has been used in a few bridge decks as well—it might eventually catch on for specialized applications.

Tornado proof and energy efficient

Replacing tornado-destroyed homes in Joplin, Mo., with stick-built structures seems just wrong. Sure, the chances of a new home being hit by a tornado may be slim, but still. Thanks to Convoy of Hope, a faith-based emergency relief organization, Global Green Building, and TF Forming Systems, if another tornado arrives, at least some of the homes will still be standing. Built using TF Forming Systems’ ThermoForms (see article in Feb. 2012 CC), they can withstand 250 mph winds while also increasing thermal efficiency. Six homes are under construction with the promise of a dozen more completed this year, donated by Convoy of Hope to needy families.

Cement urchins

Dr. Eric Bescher, vice president for cement technology at CTS Cement, Cypress, Calif., discovered some tiny structures never before identified. Found in mixtures of coal, fly ash, and hydrated calcium sulfoaluminate cement, these micron-sized glass spheres upon which needles have grown radially, are dubbed Bescher Balls. Typically a few tens of microns in size, they can only be seen clearly with an electron microscope. “Think of these structures as micron-sized sea urchins shells embedded in cement paste,” says Bescher. We have indications that they may play a beneficial role in the reinforcement of concrete or in shrinkage remediation. Our work is in progress and we are investigating the influence they could have on other properties of construction materials.”