Welcome to a new world of the living, where instead of going through the hassle of going to a building warehouse, purchasing bricks, cement, and paint. We are now introduced to BioConcrete, which can simply be described as the future of living. The mere thought of watching concrete heal itself is crazy in of itself, but to know it can actually be done is mind blowing.
Researchers from the Delft Technical University, in the Netherlands, have developed concrete that can heal itself by using special bacteria. Concrete is the most widely used building material across the globe and over time like most materials, it withers down, cracks and eventually, those cracks expand too wide to ignore. Henk Jonkers, a microbiologist and Eric Schlangen who specialise on concrete development, over the past several years have been working on a type pf concrete that has regenerative properties.
The exciting part about this research is that Jonkers and Schlangen first started by making mixing bacteria into a cement paste, after a month they found the spores of three bacteria’s that were still viable. Following that, Jonkers and Schlangen added a harmless bacterium known as Bacillus genus to the concrete, which remained dormant until rainwater entered the cracks. This is a natural occurrence inside concrete. The bacteria used the nutrients the researchers incorporated into the cement (calcium lactate – a component of milk).
According to Dr. Jonkers: “In the lab, we have been able to show healing of cracks with a width of 0.5mm. Now we are upscaling. We have to produce the self-healing agent in huge quantities and we are starting to do outdoor tests, looking at different constructions and different types of concrete to see if this concept really works in practice “.
The main challenge moving forward is ensuring the healing agent survives mixing process, In order to do so the researchers have resorted to coating the healing agent particles; however, that has proven to be extremely costly. Dr. Jonker and Dr. Schlangen are now looking to find a cheaper alternative in the next 6 months, after that a new test series will begin. This time in the real world conditions.