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The construction sector has benefited immensely from technological advances made to materials over the years.
Curtain wall facade in particular has benefitted from light and easy to assemble materials, but this wall is mostly composed of aluminium and steel which trigger headaches in terms of supply and recycling, and have bad thermal behaviour. The FACOMP ('Polymeric nanocomposite profiles for curtain walls') project, backed by the EU with EUR 954,000 under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), is determined to define a novel system and a nanomaterial to replace steel and aluminium for structural profiles.
Coordinated by CIDEMCO-Tecnalia Technological Centre in Spain, the FACOMP partners say they target the development of curtain wall sections based on polymeric nanocomposites instead of aluminium or steel. Curtain walls are favoured by people because they are easy to construct and are light. Their popularity is also due to the wide range of materials and textures that can be used for their final surface finish, according to the partners.
One of the benefits of using aluminium frames in curtain walls is that they are usually infilled with glass which provides a great deal of natural light. The problem, however, is how to best control sunlight as it can cause thermal and visual discomfort.
The FACOMP partners believe the new system under development should have mechanical properties that are either equal to or even better than what are in use today. They should also be more resistant to harsh weather, be lighter and offer people better thermal and acoustic components. The use of polymeric nanocomposites reinforced with inorganic fibres and nanoparticles (nanoclay) will also lead to changes in how the rest of the curtain wall's components, such as silicones glass, and joints, are designed.
The FACOMP team has already completed 50% of the project and has prepared the potential design of the first prototype.
The partners believe their project achievements will include the development of composite sections, whose best characteristics are mechanical behaviour, enhancement in thermal insulation, and better bad weather behaviour. According to them, the mechanical behaviour of these innovative composite sections is either equal to or better than aluminium sections.
The team is also actively optimising the techniques and formulation for composite processing, as well as evaluating various processing techniques. Ultimately, the target is to create a real-scale curtain wall prototype by using the new nanocomposite sections. Not only will the nanotechnology used in this project help the team clinch better resistance and rigidity in the final material, but it will result in improved performances against fire, they say.
FACOMP brings together seven research and industry partners from Spain, Italy, Sweden and the UK.
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