Nanomaterials in construction - what is being used, and where?

Identifying where nanomaterials are present in construction materials is challenging. Academic literature reports what nanotechnology can offer construction, but this can differs from the reality of what is currently in use. Furthermore, it is difficult to source accurate information regarding nano-enabled products on the market; under current legislation, the declaration of nano content is voluntary and there is no requirement to provide details within safety data sheets. Although publically available information remains opaque and incomplete, several studies and reports have attempted to clarify this situation. This research builds upon this information, presenting an overview of nano-enabled products currently available for use in construction. This is based upon literature, manufacturers’ published information and on discussions with suppliers and end users. Concrete, glass and coatings are the most widely available nano-enabled products, together with insulation and special steels. The precise nanomaterial used in each case however, and the form and quantity involved, can be difficult to identify. This makes assessing the risks difficult, which is problematic as some nanomaterials are considered to be hazardous. More detailed information regarding commercially available products will be important if risks are to be managed, enabling the industry to take full advantage of the benefits of nanotechnology.