Not many people would use the word “transparent” to describe cement. But transparent cement made its debut at the Italian Pavilion during the World Expo last year in Shanghai, and its qualities are pretty remarkable.

The complete process has not been revealed by manufacturer Italcementi, but the technology is based on a matrix of cement embedded with resins that are designed to allow a certain amount of light through without compromising the material’s integrity.

Trademarked as i.light, the substance created by Italcementi to fit the desires of architect Giampaolo Imbrighi contains multicolored resins that fill 2 to 3 millimeter holes that look like rectangular slats. These resins react allow soft light to fill the building’s interior — a potential cost savings on energy bills, since the need for artificial lighting is reduced. The result is about 20 percent transparency for the building.

(The company also makes a “thermal cement” designed to keep buildings cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and a “smog-eating cement” that abates air pollution.)

Reprint from  by Amy Dusto