Concrete is a material we have been using and refining since the rule of the Roman Empire. Today this liquid stone is becoming less light stone and more like glass. Concrete is being combined with optical fibers to make concrete transparent, and is changing the way we build and the way we use this every day material.
Optical fibers can reach up to 50 feet and extend from one end of poured concrete to the other while not effecting how structurally strong concrete is, as the compound is only 5% light transmitting materials and 95% fine grain concrete. The material still pours like regular concrete making installation and use easy.
This new material is not only aesthetically pleasing to architects but is making buildings more green. Light transmitting concrete can transmit not only natural light, but artificial light as well, reducing the need for lighting and reducing energy costs. Buildings built with this material also reduce heating costs and power consumption, due to how thick concrete can be as well as how its own light is used instead of extra light fixtures.
In a state like Minnesota, this material would be useful because it can transmit heat with sunlight, keeping the warm in and the cold out. We also have many overcast days where we don’t get a lot of sun, and a material that can use artificial light would provide light on even the snowiest days. You could create a sidewalk made of concrete to light up at night for safe walking after hours, as well as in stairways to illuminate a dark stairwell in an emergency.
What could go wrong with the endless ideas for light transmitting concrete? Human error is always a potential problem. If the wrong combination of materials is used to make the concrete it will not be a structurally strong, which might pose a problem in tough weather conditions or a hot summer day. Another potential problem is the cost to make the concrete. It would cost over 5 times the amount of regular concrete to make, but as it continues to be used and refined, the price will lower and be a feasible option for architects.