Shaping the Future - Construction Chemicals

Team Chemical Market

15 May 2024

Introduction

As we marvel at the towering skyscrapers and cityscapes, that define our modern world, one vital component enabling their existence is  Construction Chemicals. These substances are not only  Concrete additives that give strength and resilience to structural members but also serve diverse functions across the construction industry. They are the architects of durability, custodians of longevity,  and sentinels of safety.  In this article are described some of the important Construction Chemicals and their functions.

Description

The Construction industry employs a wide array of chemicals for various purposes, varying from adhesives and sealants to coatings and Concrete additives. These chemicals enhance the durability, strength, and performance of construction materials.

Plasticizers - They are used in high-strength concrete mixes or where a high degree of flowability is needed. The reduced viscosity allows the pumping of concrete of different grades to greater heights. Significant water reduction is achieved while maintaining workability and reduced permeability, which helps in preventing the ingress of harmful substances such as water, chloride ions, and sulfates. Plasticizers prevent the corrosion of reinforcements thus retaining their strength. Additionally, the denser and more homogeneous concrete mix achieved with plasticizers can enhance its resistance to factors such as freeze-thaw cycles, chemical attacks, and abrasion, thus enhancing  Durability in construction.

Accelerators and Retarders -

Accelerators increase the rate of cement hydration, which is the chemical reaction between cement and water that forms the hardened paste binding the aggregates together in concrete. They are additives that speed up the early strength development of concrete, allowing for faster setting and early strength gain. They are particularly useful in cold weather conditions or when rapid construction schedules demand early form-work removal or traffic opening. Common constituents of accelerators include calcium chloride, calcium nitrate, and Triethanolamine.

Retarders are additives used to delay the setting time of concrete, allowing for more extended periods for mixing, transporting, placing, and finishing the concrete. They are particularly useful in hot weather conditions, large-scale placements, or when long-distance transportation is required. Retarders work by slowing down the hydration process of cement, which helps to prevent premature stiffening and setting of the concrete mixture. This allows for better workability and reduces the risk of cold joints and other construction defects. Common constituents of retarders include Lignosulphonates, Polycarboxylate ethers, citric acid, and gluconic acid.


Air  Entraining Agents -

The primary function of air entraining agents is to introduce microscopic air bubbles into the concrete mix during mixing. These air bubbles are uniformly dispersed throughout the hardened concrete, providing numerous benefits to the material's performance. One of the most significant benefits of air entrainment is the enhancement of freeze-thaw resistance. When water freezes within the concrete, it expands, exerting pressure on the concrete matrix. The presence of entrained air bubbles provides voids for the expansion of freezing water, reducing the internal pressure on the concrete and minimizing the risk of cracking or spalling during freeze-thaw cycles. Some of the common constituents are Surfactants and Vinsol resin.

Sealants and adhesives

Sealants are used to seal joints and gaps in concrete structures. Mainly silicone based they exhibit high weather resistance. Polyurethane and acrylic-based sealants are also used depending on the base material. Adhesives are generally epoxy-based,  and used in concrete, plastics, and metals, where high-strength bonding is required.

Increasingly we see the facades of commercial buildings having tinted glasses. This enhances the aesthetics and reduces the cost of construction. Sealants and adhesives form a vital component in this type of architecture. With diverse choices, they offer solutions to a variety of environmental conditions.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing products are latex-based, consisting of plasticizing agents, polymers, and additives. Used in roofs, terraces, overhead, and underground tanks, they find further applications in masonry repairs of concrete columns, beams, and slabs. They improve the adhesive strength of mortars and prevent cracking of concrete due to reduced shrinkage thus providing comprehensive Waterproofing solutions.

Coatings

External surfaces of structures receive coatings to enhance their appearance and durability. Made of Acrylic elastomers and additives,  they form higher film thicknesses, which have properties like water resistance, crack bridging ability, weather durability, and excellent resistance to the growth of fungus and algae.  Further, the coating is UV-resistant and elastic enough to withstand thermal expansions and contractions.

Market Scenario
 
India Crop protection typical market trends

Trend of Construction Chemicals in India (Courtesy : Mordor Intelligence)


The above illustration depicts the rising trend of Construction Chemicals in India and the future outlook.  Presently the value is about Rs 28,000 Crore rising to a level of approx Rs 42,000 Crore in 2030. This shows a combined  CAGR ( Compounded annual growth rate) of nearly 7% encompassing all sectors. Urban infrastructure development is a significant focus for the future.
 
India Crop protection typical market trends

India Construction Chemicals Market leaders (Courtesy : Mordor Intelligence)


However, the market is competitive and fragmented with the Top 5 companies holding  18.71% of the market share as illustrated in the figure above. This may lead to a few M&As ( Mergers and Acquisitions) in the future. New products will likely emerge, keeping pace with technological advancements and industry demands.

Conclusion

From the humble beginnings of mortar and concrete to the cutting-edge innovations of nanotechnology,  the story of construction chemicals has been one of evolution, adaptation, and pursuit of excellence.  As the various sectors evolve,  the challenges posed by climate change and urbanization will make their role even more critical. Judicious use of these chemicals will be essential to achieve optimal functionality and longevity of structures.

 

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