From Nanoscale to Building Scale
Nanoscale particle deposition: photo by the Crawford Group, University of South Carolina
When architects and engineers are asked about their favorite new materials, the emphasis usually goes to the nano-scale marvels like Plastic Steel or CarbonCoat—substances that are developed in small quantities via time-intensive, lab-based processes. We often bemoan the fact that such materials cannot be easily scaled up for use in larger products—or better yet, buildings. Rather, the nanotechnological revolution often targets increasingly smaller-scale opportunities like next generation computer processing, in which transistors are approaching the molecular level.
Buildings haven’t been completely forgotten, however. University of South Carolina professor Thomas Crawford recognizes the benefits that nanoscale material manipulations might have on building performance, and is currently researching what he calls the “micron to meter” problem. With a background in magneto-optical information storage, Crawford is developing methods for scaling the particle deposition technology used for making disc drives up to larger sizes appropriate for glazing or building panels. Such a leap might allow for unprecedented control over common challenges such as daylight glare and solar heat gain—as well as provide means for deeper integration of photovoltaic technologies in common building materials.