Scientists have created sustainable concrete using bacteria making the concrete alive and capable of reproduction. This may help with reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry.
"We already use biological materials in our buildings, like wood, but those materials are no longer alive," said Wil Srubar, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the US. "We're asking: Why can't we keep them alive and have that biology do something beneficial, too?" said Srubar.
The ability to keep the bacteria alive shows that living buildings might not be that far off into the future. Living structures could heal their cracks, eliminate dangerous toxins, and maybe even glow on command. "The sky's the limit for our creativity," Srubar said.
The materials used for construction today are costly and manufacturing those causes pollution to the environment. The cement and concrete alone needed for roadwork, bridges, skyscrapers and other structures contribute nearly 6 percent to the world’s annual emission of greenhouse gas. The researchers experimented with cyanobacteria belonging to the genus Synechococcus. Under the perfect conditions, these green microbes absorb the carbon dioxide gas to help grow and make calcium carbonate which is the main ingredient in limestone and cement. Using the right processes, the calcium carbonate gets churned out by the microbes mineralizes the gelatin which binds together the sand, and the brick.
"It's a lot like making rice crispy treats where you toughen the marshmallow by adding little bits of hard particles," Srubar said.