How “Living concrete” could revolutionize building construction on earth, and in space

Researchers are making growing concrete in labs using bacteria

TRD NATIONAL /
Jan.January 19, 2020 09:00 AM
Researchers and their “living concrete”

Researchers and their “living concrete”

Could this be the building block of real estate life on Mars?

Researchers at the University of Colorado have turned light-eating bacteria into the world’s tiniest construction workers, utilizing their power to create “living concrete.”

Their breakthrough process uses the bacteria in the same way binders are used in traditional concrete-making. The living concrete can be made from less materials and without the carbon dioxide emissions caused by traditional concrete methods, according to the New York Times.

The researchers first mixed cyanobacteria with warm water, sand and nutrients. The bacteria absorb light and produce calcium carbonate that bonds the sand together, just like binders, but that process was slow.

They were able to speed up the process and strengthen the bonds by adding common food gelatin and cooling the mixture in monds in a refrigerator, similar to the process of making Jell-O.

The mixture takes about two days to solidify and can be shaped into many different forms using molds. So far, they’ve made bricks about the size of a shoebox, as well as curved, truss-like blocks, and other shapes.

They strengthen at room temperature over several days and the bacteria start to die out during that time, but even weeks later they can be cut up and used to grow up to three generations of bricks.

The project was funded by DARPA, an experimental research arm of the Department of Defense. DARPA has funded numerous groundbreaking scientific and technological projects over the years. It wants to use the bricks to make it easier to build in remote environments.

The bacteria can also bind to a wide variety of materials, whereas conventional concrete can only be made from virgin sand, which is running short worldwide. Conventional bricks so far are stronger, but have practical limitations.

Dr. Wil Strubar, a structural engineer who headed the research project, said the possibilities were incredible. In the future, materials could detect and respond to toxic chemicals or even point to possible structural damage. They might even survive on Mars.

“There’s no way we’re going to carry building materials to space,” Dr. Srubar told the Times. “We’ll bring biology with us.” [NYT] — Dennis Lynch


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
The Flexibility Trade-Off

The Flexibility Trade-Off

AI-chitecture

Design Firm BIG Looks at “AI-chitecture” and 3D Printing to Help Build Sustainable Coastal Cities

There Is No Escaping the Automation of Commercial Real Estate Brokerages

There Is No Escaping the Automation of Commercial Real Estate Brokerages

493-cre-valuation

The Property Valuation Reckoning is Imminent

Duke Long and Poshtel International CEO Morten Lund

“I can talk about erections all day”: NAR tech consultant’s bizarre fireside chat

From left: Katerra COO Paal Kibsgaard, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, and Katerra CEO Michael Marks (Credit: Katerra, Getty Images, and iStock)

SoftBank-backed construction startup Katerra acquires two more firms

The trade war has created an uncertain environment for construction. (Credit: iStock and Getty Images)

General contractors are suffering under Trump’s new tariffs on Chinese goods

CoStar CEO Andy Florance (Credit: CoStar via YouTube and iStock)

CoStar’s bet on Apartments.com is paying off

arrow_forward_ios
Loading...