Concrete In A New Light

Outside the industry, concrete is most often thought of as an important – yet boring – standby of the construction industry. That has started to change with the growing popularity of innovations like decorative concrete. A new cutting-edge product could further that changing perception.

Translucent concrete started to make headlines after its inclusion in the “Liquid Stone” exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

The LiTraCon blocks – for “Light Transmitting Concrete” – are made by embedding light-conducting glass fibers into the concrete mix. Hungarian architect Aron Losonczi invented LiTraCon in 2001. (Although Losonczi has gotten the credit for being the inventor of translucent concrete in most press accounts, that honor actually goes to American Bill Price, who came up with it in 1999 using embedded glass and plastic.)

The Germany-based company now expects to have LiTraCon products available for mass production by the end of the year, says company spokesman Andreas Bittis. The company says the product is strong enough to meet the same demands as traditional concrete, including serving as load-bearing walls. However, it will be significantly more expensive for the time being, until demand increases and production costs fall.

A sidewalk made of the translucent concrete was installed in a public square in Stockholm, Sweden in 2002. During the day it looks like a normal sidewalk, but at night it is illuminated by lights beneath it.

The Liquid Stone exhibit, sponsored by LaFarge, continues at the National Building Museum until January.

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