May 22, 2020

New twist on flexible building material

New twist on flexible building material Monash University is leading a research project pioneering a breakthrough recyclable material.

An emerging line of materials based on an organised intertwined or interlocked inner architecture has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry, according to researchers.

A global research team headed by Monash University is leading the development of archimats.

Archimats can be engineered to have superior strength, enhanced ductility, a high tolerance to damage, good thermal insulation and sound absorption.

They can also better absorb energy, as well as provide improved compliance and flexibility.

One way to achieve this superior property profile, especially of metallic materials, is through severe plastic deformation (SPD) – a metalworking technique that results in an ultrafine grain size or nanocrystalline structure.

The structural patterns caused by SPD processing can improve the mechanical characteristics and physical properties of materials.

Employing the SPD processes of twist extrusion and screw rolling to produce archimats with spiral armour.
Rapidly deployable pavements composed of interlocked tetrahedron-shaped blocks made from different materials.

Applications include:

  • In the construction industry to reduce the use of concrete and cut carbon dioxide emissions associated with its production;
  • To build or rebuild in arid or disaster-affected zones. This includes rapidly deployable and removable structures in danger areas, such as a town or city impacted by fire, for first responders and displaced citizens;
  • In extra-terrestrial and space construction. The European Space Agency is already considering this type of architectured material for the construction of a lunar base; and
  • In smart toys and games, such as 2D and 3D puzzles.

Professor Yuri Estrin, an Honorary Professorial Fellow in Monash University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, leads this project.

Professor Yuri Estrin.

He said a further benefit of archimats was the ease of assembly and disassembly, as well as the nearly full recyclability of the elements involved.

“Archimats therefore offer smarter, safer and more sustainable materials for use in manufacturing and industrial design, with the building industry being arguably the greatest potential beneficiary of this design concept,” Professor Estrin said.

“Archimats are also suitable for micro manufacturing. They can be produced using desktop or benchtop manufacturing processes, without the need for heavy equipment and large amounts of material.

“This opens up new possibilities for industry to explore the use of archimats for application in smart manufacturing, in particular the development of gear for microelectromechanical systems, micro devices and miniaturised drones, as well as superior structural materials for the automotive and aerospace industries.”

Professor Estrin has been invited to contribute a review of his research, titled: ‘Design of Architectured Materials Based on Mechanically‐Driven Structural and Compositional Patterning’ to the prestigious Hall of Fame edition of the journal Advanced Engineering Materials.

A monograph he co-edited, entitled ‘Architectured Materials in Nature and Engineering’ ( defines this emerging research area.

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