Good Thinking

Italian firm creates 'transparent cement'

Italian firm creates 'transpar...
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
The Italcementi i.light research team (Photo: Italcementi)
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The Italcementi i.light research team (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi has created a product called i.light, which is a cement that is up to 20 percent transparent (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi has created a product called i.light, which is a cement that is up to 20 percent transparent (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
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Italcementi's i.light in place at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)

Visitors to last year’s World Expo in Shanghai might have noticed that the outer walls of the Italian pavilion were kind of... unusual. Although they felt solid, and looked like concrete when viewed from an angle, light was able to pass through them. How was it possible? They were made from what the Italcementi Group refers to as “transparent cement,” and has trademarked as i.light. It’s definitely a unique substance, as it blurs the line between wall and window.

The material was created specifically for the pavilion, as architect Giampaolo Imbrighi wanted a building with transparent walls. While the exact fabrication method hasn’t been fully divulged, Italcementi states that it involves “an innovative cement/admixtures mix design.” That mixture reportedly bonds well with thermoplastic polymer resin, which is inserted into a matrix of 2-3 mm holes running through the width of each panel.

There are approximately 50 holes in each 500 x 1,000 x 50 mm (19.7 x 39 x 2 inch) panel, resulting in an overall transparency of about 20 percent – the pavilion also included semi-transparent panels, which had a transparency of 10 percent created by “modulating the insertion of the resins.”

Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)
Italcementi's i.light being installed at the Italian pavilion at Expo 2010 (Photo: Italcementi)

Past attempts at similar materials have included placing fiber optic cables through a concrete mixture, although the Italcementi researchers claim that their product is much less expensive to produce, and allows light to enter from a greater number of angles.

Although i.light has yet to be made available for commercial use, it has already been suggested that buildings made with the material could save electricity that would otherwise be required for daytime lighting.

Via Popular Science and ConstructionWeekonline.in

8 comments
Michael Mantion
Wow saving on daytime lighting.. That\'s amazing.. I might save 1% of of my electric bill. Its a great idea, don\'t spoil it by saying it will save someone money or is environmentally friendly.
agulesin
So it\'s not really concrete but more of a panel made from concrete with holes. We assume that they will let air in and out as well? Would someone tell me what\'s the difference between this and a normal perforated metal cladding system? It is obvious from the photos that this isn\'t a load-bearing material which concrete usually is...
drumalis
Depending on how much unwanted heat is transmitted along with the light I would think large office buildings could save quite a bit.
dsiple
These would cut down on lighting costs but also on air conditioning costs. Brilliant.
Terotech
Air conditioning? Assume the air will be let in and out? \"thermoplastic polymer resin, which is inserted into a matrix of 2-3 mm holes running through the width of each panel.\" This should explain things to agulesin and dsiple..........oh! I\'m sorry, it is already in the write-up!
Cephas
Shouldnt the article be named \"Italian firm refines \'transparent cement\'\"? Considering LiTraCon has been on the market since 2004.
agulesin
@Terotech - thanks for that -I missed that point!
Fred Meyers
Yeah, what Michael said. And: Did I miss something? Wouldn\'t windows let in light too? Or is it an \"art\" thing? Pseudo/virtual/artificial windows: when *real* windows just won\'t do for the spoiled rich brat.