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See-through concrete unveiled

MATERIALS Cutting Edge

CONCRETE has been much maligned over the years. Criticised as a grey and lifeless material, its market share in commercial developments has suffered as its chief rival, structural steel, attacks its traditional power base.

Now Hungarian architect Aron Losonczi thinks he may have developed a material that has all the traditional strength of concrete but can transmit light and draws a line under the 'grey and lifeless' jibes.

He has incorporated light-transmitting optical glass fibres within the concrete matrix to produce a material that is opaque from the outside but will enable a building's occupants to see through the walls.

Mr Losonczi's LiTraCon has embedded in it a mesh of optical fibres from specialist producer Schott, running parallel to each other from face to face.

Light passes along the fibres and ensures a clear view of outside objects on the inside surface of the concrete.

Mr Losonczi said: 'Thousands of optical glass fibres form a matrix and run parallel to each other between the two main surfaces of every block. Shadows cast on the lighter side will appear with sharp outlines on the darker side.Even the colours remain the same.'

A LiTraCon concrete wall could be built more than 2 m thick without losing any of its light-transmitting properties.

Mr Losonczi said: 'The fibres do not have a negative effect on the high compressive strength of concrete. And they work without any loss of light at thicknesses up to 20 m.'