Clemson holds the golden brick seminar

10/01/04

CLEMSON -- It's hard to imagine a network of talking bricks, but in tomorrow's smart buildings, they could be talking to you and homeland security officials.

The National Brick Research Center at Clemson University will play host to the Golden Anniversary Plant Operations Forum Oct. 3-6, 2004, at Littlejohn Coliseum. Seven hundred people from the United States, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and South Africa will attend the 50th anniversary gathering of brick manufacturers, including the Monday-night barbecue, which, with a grill longer than most limousines, has been called the biggest barbecue in the Upstate.

"Part of our job is to marry new technology to old-fashioned masonry," said Denis Brosnan, director of the research center. "While bricks haven't changed much in the past 6,000 years, the manufacturing process has."

The technology that goes into making the eight billion bricks produced in the United States every year is deceivingly complex. Modern brick factories are as sophisticated as auto-assembly plants.

"About 90 percent of the brick manufacturers in the U.S. partner with us to perform quality tests," said associate director Jim Frederic. "We perform thermal, chemical and physical tests to make sure the bricks meet safety and environmental standards."

Bricks are strong: A typical brick can support one and a half blue whales, or 360,000 pounds. While their composition gives them the ability to survive thousands of years of wear and tear, they are vulnerable.

"One day, we're going to have smart buildings," Brosnan said. "Nanotechnology will lead to sensors and communications networks that could be embedded in bricks, giving them the ability to notify homeowners of shifting that occurs over time. The same network of sensors could automatically alert homeland security to bomb blasts or attempts to compromise structure."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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