A new recyclable material could revolutionise the construction industry, help disaster affected areas and be used in space exploration, according to a global research team headed by Monash University.
Researchers are leading the development of archimats – an emerging area of ‘architectured’ materials that have an organised intertwined or interlocked inner architecture.
“As a result, archimats have an extra degree of freedom expanding the design space that conventional composite materials, such as concrete, cannot possess,” a Monash University statement reads.
“Archimats can be engineered to have superior strength, enhanced ductility, a high tolerance to damage, good thermal insulation and sound absorption. They can also better absorb energy, as well as provide improved compliance and flexibility.”
One way to achieve this property profile, especially of metallic materials, is through severe plastic deformation (SPD) – a special metalworking technique that results in an ultrafine grain size or nanocrystalline structure.
“The structural patterns caused by SPD processing can improve the mechanical characteristics and physical properties of materials,” the statement reads.
Project lead Yuri Estrin, an Honorary Professorial Fellow in Monash University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said a further benefit of archimats is the ease of assembly and disassembly it provides a structure, as well as the nearly full recyclability of the elements involved.
“Archimats therefore offer smarter, safer and more sustainable materials for use in manufacturing and industrial design, with the building industry being arguably the greatest potential beneficiary of this design concept,” Professor Estrin said.
“Archimats are also suitable for micro manufacturing. They can be produced using desktop or benchtop manufacturing processes, without the need for heavy equipment and large amounts of material.”
Professor Estrin said archimats could reduce the use of concrete in construction, thereby cutting carbon dioxide emissions associated with concrete production.
The material also has potential for rebuild use in arid or disaster-affected zones, including the creation of rapidly deployable and removable structures in danger areas, such as a town or city impacted by fire, for first responders and displaced citizens.
According to Professor Estrin, the material opens up new possibilities for industry to explore the use of archimats for application in smart manufacturing, in particular the development of gear for microelectromechanical systems, micro devices and miniaturised drones, as well as superior structural materials for the automotive and aerospace industries.
The European Space Agency is also considering the use of these architectured materials for the construction of a lunar base.