The house that nanotechnology built

A house featuring the latest developments in energy-saving nanotechnology is to be built in Australia in the New Year.

The project, co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, will bring together technologies from institutions around the country to form a showcase of the capabilities and applications of nanotechnology within the construction industry. The first stage of the house is planned for completion by July 2003.

A virtual tour of it should be available to view online early in the New Year, and its developers hope that the finished design will reduce energy consumption by around 50 per cent compared to a traditional house of the same size.

The University of Technology, Sydney, has confirmed that it is to support the inclusion of two technologies within the building. These are an infrared filtering material used to make windows, and cold lighting technology. Both are designed to minimise energy use.

The windows will be constructed using a transparent acrylic fibre embedded with lanthanum hexaboride nanoparticles. ‘The window has been engineered to reject infrared radiation so that heat is not passed readily through the glass and into the interior of a building,’ said project co-ordinator Carl Masens of the UTS Institute for Nanoscale Technology.

‘This means that the interior is not heated by the sunlight and therefore reduces the need to run air-conditioners to keep comfortable on hot days,’ he said. The cold lighting technology consists of beads of nanopolymers placed within a polymer, producing a material that resembles thick plastic optical cables. The technology has yet to be patented, so its exact composition cannot be disclosed.

The cables can perform two functions. One system involves emitting light through scattering energy to give an effect like a neon light, but is not fragile and consumes very little power. The other enhances the movement of light along the cable, enabling it to be delivered to otherwise dark spaces at low cost.

As well as using nanotechnology to prepare materials, the project’s co-ordinators plan to include nanotechnology-based devices such as refrigeration units within the futuristic home.

In the UK efforts to set up a centralised nanotechnology centre have not met such success. Some reports suggest that the government has got cold feet. Apart from holding preliminary investigations, it has achieved little, they claim.

A DTI spokeswoman admitted that it had yet to agree the level of funding necessary.Local organisations such as Advantage West Midlands appear to have lost patience.

Late last month, representatives met MPs to discuss their plan for a £90m R&D centre backed by a consortium of private companies, universities, research institutes and local agencies. This will be built, regardless of government plans.

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