by Yuan Gao (MArch '17)
Concrete is traditionally treated as a material primarily for load-bearing purposes. But can it fulfill other roles too? The fluid nature of concrete mix opens up opportunities for material mixtures that would render multiple functions. This thesis explores one combination in particular—optical fiber embedded concrete, in order to develop a new type of structural material with optical advantages. As there have already been several efforts in Europe to industrialize optical fiber concrete (often commercialized as transparent concrete in marketplace), it is not the focus of this thesis to examine potential methods of mass production. Rather, this thesis tries to realize the great potentials of this material through architectural applications: light-redirecting/imaging, load-bearing, and data transmitting.
Let us imagine a piece of architecture made from optical fiber concrete. It can be a daylight diffuser during the day, a projection screen at night, and a structure sensor that monitors internal strain—all achieved without compromising its structural soundness. As such, concrete has become a sensible material that can multi-task. Its future is to be redefined.