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CLEAR AND BRIGHT: I.LIGHT CEMENT IS NOT JUST TOUGH
As tough as cement, but as clear as glass. This is i.light, the cement conceived by Italcementi, and which proved all the rage at the Shanghai Expo, where it was used to build the Italian Pavilion.
By combining a new type of cement paste with certain special resins, i.light allows the construction of solid, insulating panels which also let through the light. Indeed, the research team at Italcementi has managed to formulate a unique type of ready-mix, able to hold the plastic resins within the normally opaque cement material, without creating cracks or weakening its structure. The transparent properties of the cement are obtained by the careful addition of particular additives to the mixture. More precisely, this is a matter of special resins in various colours, which the Italcementi researchers have found are particularly well suited to this type of application.
The material designed by Italcementi is especially innovative because it does not contain optical fibres, used by standard forms of transparent cement up until now. The ability of i.light to capture the light is much greater, because the resins allow a wider light cone to penetrate than optical fibres. This actually increases the transparency of the material and the luminous effect it gives to buildings. In addition, i.light is stronger than products using optical fibres, and considerably less expensive.
The Italian Pavilion at Shanghai was constructed using 3,774 of i.light transparent panels, covering a total surface of 1887 m², which amounted to about 40% of the entire shell. The effect was to create a succession of light and shade inside the Pavilion, constantly changing throughout the day. However, looking beyond the high impact use of i.light in Shanghai, those features of the material which ensure excellent thermal insulation, breathability and fire resistance, make it particularly versatile and suited to many contexts. The main use is as an external covering to ventilated walls for museums, commercial premises or exhibition centres, or to create internal dividing walls. i.light is easily personalized and so lends itself well to uses in art and design. Tests have not revealed any deterioration of the material after more than a year of exposure to the outside environment.
Thus, together with TX Active, the “smog-eating” cement, this “transparent cement” joins the ranks of eco-compatible products created by researchers at Italcementi. Thanks to its capacity to let in light, the “transparent cement” can help save on electricity for inside lighting in buildings, contributing positively to energy savings. The i.light panel is composed partly of fibre-reinforced cement with polymer inserts. The cement element can be recycled as concrete and re-used in building projects; the plastic inserts have thermo-plastic characteristics and are therefore reusable.