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See-through concrete: LiTracon

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Posted on TFOD
on November 14, 2014 at 08:26 PM

A revolutionary innovation in material – Transparent Concrete – is set to rewrite the rules of construction. With its light-transmitting quality, it will enable designers to shape the future of design in unforeseen ways! LiTracon is a trademark for this translucent concrete building material. The name is short for "light-transmitting concrete".

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The Romans discovered concrete, creating the bedrock of modern building technology. They continued to innovate, adding volcanic ash to the mix to allow it to harden under water and putting in horsehair to reduce shrinkage. Research on this building material has continued down the ages, with reinforced cement concrete transforming the scene radically. One of the latest and most wondrous results of research is transparent concrete, a material that is poised to change the future of building design.

While a large number of companies, researchers and scientists are working on creating the perfect transparent concrete, the product that has grabbed the most attention and success is LiTracon. Created by Hungarian architect Aron Losonczi, LiTracon is a mixture of thousands of optical fibres and fine concrete. Losonczi’s company, LiTraCon Bt was formed in 2004, just three years after he graduated from Budapest's Technical University and LiTracon was listed the same year by Time magazine as one of the most amazing inventions of the year. Losonczi developed and completed the initial prototype of LiTraCon as a post-graduate fellow in Stockholm Royal University's School of Architecture.

Produced as pre-cast building blocks and panels that transmit light, LiTracon is a widely applicable building material. What’s interesting is the fact that a LiTracon wall, though possessing the strength of concrete, allows you to dimly view proximal objects on the brighter side (as silhouettes).

How does it work? LiTracon is composed of thousands of optical glass fibres that form a matrix and run parallel to each other between the two main surfaces of each block. The fibres comprise a small proportion – as little as 4 per cent – of the total volume of a block. The small size of the fibres ensures that they mix well with the concrete and end up becoming a structural component (much like an aggregate). The surface of the concrete blocks is homogenous – there are no fibres or aggregates popping out.

The selling point of LiTracon – its transparency – is made possible by the glass fibres that lead light by points between the two sides of the blocks. As they are placed in a parallel position, the light information on the brighter side of a wall made of this material seems unchanged on the darker side. The silhouettes and shadows created by the light are the most interesting feature. Shadows on the lighter side appear with sharp outlines on the darker one. The colours remain the same. This special effect dispels the impression of thickness and weight that generally surrounds a concrete wall.

LiTracon has won a clutch of awards, including the iF Material Award 2008, EAF Award 2006 (for best use of innovative technology and thoughtful design in a small scheme), and the Red Dot: best of the best 2005 (for highest design quality). The material was also nominated for the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany 2006 by German Design Council.


The world’s first commercially available transparent concrete is produced as prefabricated building blocks, with 96% concrete and 4% optical fibre. The material, which has the appearance of exposed concrete, can also be used for load-bearing structures as the glass fibres have no negative impact on the strength of concrete. A structure built from light-transmitting concrete can be several metres thick - the fibres work without almost any loss in light up until 20m. Blocks are available in a size of 1200 x 400 mm; with thicknesses varying from 25 – 500 mm. LiTracon is presently working on creating light-transmitting building blocks in other colours and textures.

LiTracon pXL

This material has no optical fibres that allow transmission of light. Instead, it has a specially formed and patented plastic unit and is available in the form of reinforced panels (available in two sizes 1,200 x 600mm, 3,600 x 1,200mm and thickness of 40mm or 60mm. The industrialized way of manufacturing ensures that this new range is available at much more competitive rates. The pXL panels have light dots that are uniformly distribution on the surface – much like the pixels on an LCD screen. It is possible to create patterns, designs and logos using the pixels. Folded or curved forms are also possible, allowing this material to be used for specialised design (street furniture, accessories such as lamps).

Apart from these two dedicated building materials, the company also offers the luminous Litracube lamp. Made of LiTracon, glass and stainless steel, the lamp (size 221x175x175mm; weight: 10kg) promises to change the appearance of a room at the click of a switch. It is presently available in white, grey and black.

The most notable installation of LiTracon is Europe Gate - a 4 m high sculpture made of LiTracon blocks, erected in 2004 in observance of the entry of Hungary into the European Union.Though expensive, LiTracon appeals to architects because it is stronger than glass and translucent, unlike concrete. It has been considered as possible sheathing for New York's Freedom Tower. This award-winning material has been used creatively in private homes, retail outlets and public spaces, on signage and as a sculptural element - in places like Hungary, Germany and even Japan!

Who could have ever thought that the dull and grey concrete could metamorphose into a vibrant and translucent material that promises to change the future of design and construction? Clearly, the light of innovation shines bright through LiTracon!

Designer : Aron Losonczi
Photography :Sources & Research

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