Shadows through sand: translucent concrete

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Concrete may have started out as a heavy, low-tech material, associated with architectural brutalism and 1960s high-rises. How times have changed… Already on the market, or half-way towards becoming commercially available, are concrete formulations with any number of surprising qualities.

Silhouette & sand dunes, by Daniel Oines on Flickr

These days, concrete can be lightweight, waterproof, recyclable, bendable, self-healing, and even (arguably) environmentally sound. And now, concrete – that most solid-sounding of building materials – can be translucent, too.

Here is how light-transmitting concrete is made: layer upon layer, ultrafine optical fibres are paralellised and distributed through a fine-grained concrete mix. When set, the concrete is cut and shaped into panels or tiles, which are then polished to the desired texture.

With structural performance indicators including a compressive strength of 49N/mm2 (MPa) and bending strength of 7.7N/mm2 (MPa), translucent concrete may be used as a load-bearing material.

Luccon concrete, supplied by NY Stone Manhattan (on interiordesign.net)

When used as part of an external wall or placed in front of a window, these concrete panels need no light source other than the natural daylight that is diffused through the solid surface. If the concrete is mounted internally in the shape of wall, floor or ceiling panels, artificial light sources can be used to create special effects.

As you can imagine, designers have started playing around with this concept and its various applications:

  • The optical fibres, backlit with coloured LEDs, create concrete walls that shimmer in different shades according to where you stand in a room.
  • Points of optical fibres in different diameters, distributed unevenly through a dark concrete panel, create the illusion of a starry night sky.
  • The light-transmitting fibres can be arranged into the shapes of logos, company names, symbols and signage.

Two companies involved in the development, manufacture and supply of translucent concrete:

LUCEM Lichtbeton

LUCEM LABEL tiles with custom logos, names and icons

LUCEM bar counter with coloured background lighting

LiTraCon™

Main entrance of Museum Cella Septichora, Hungary

Iberville Parish Veterans Memorial, Baton Rouge

More information can be found in this Gizmag article on light-transmitting concrete. And finally, here’s one that DIY’er Calvin Drews made earlier: a video on how to make your own light-transmitting concrete.

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7 Responses to “Shadows through sand: translucent concrete”

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    • Benedikte Ranum Says:

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  2. Image Burn Says:

    I am really pleased to glance at this webpage posts which includes plenty of helpful facts, thanks for providing these information.

  3. martinleungwai Says:

    Awesome post!! I am interested in materials and also the application of them at night. So a great example for my architectural designs. 🙂

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