Researchers have discovered a method with which they can create live bricks that convert carbon dioxide into CaCO3, the main ingredient in cement. Studies with Synechococcus cyanobacteria (hereafter referred to as bacteria) showed great potential for future construction projects when used in combination with sand, carbon dioxide and a specific range of moisture conditions. Cutting the resulting bricks results in self-healing and reproduction.
The process begins with the inoculation of colonies of bacteria in a solution of sand and gelatin. The process used in the research takes carbon dioxide and creates calcium carbonate, mineralizing the jelly that, in turn, binds the sand. “We use bacteria to help grow most of the material needed for construction,” said assistant professor Wil Srubar of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
It is as if they had used water to create a sandcastle, but the resulting material here will not crumble so easily. These bricks are as rough and tough as most modern mortars used in buildings by construction workers in our cities every day.
These bricks can also be reproduced: brick material that makes brick material, the (more or less) natural form. It’s like growing trees just to use their wood as building materials, but here the materials would not only be tree bodies, but they would be alive, and useful!
“We know that bacteria grow at an exponential rate, so instead of making bricks one by one, you may be able to make a brick and divide it into two, then four, and so on,” Srubar said. “That would revolutionize not only what we think of a structural material, but also how we manufacture structural materials on an exponential scale.”
For more information on this study and these live bricks, take a look at the article Biomineralization and Successive Regeneration of Living Engineering Building Materials as published in the Matter research journal (in Cell dot com). This research was written by Chelsea M. Heveran, Sarah L. Williams, Jishen Qiu, Juliana Artier, Mija H. Hubler, Sherri M. Cook, Jeffrey C. Cameron and Wil V. Srubar III. You can find this document with the DOI code: 10.1016 / j.matt.2019.11.016 as of January 15, 2020. You will also see below a video presentation on Srubar’s living materials.
A note included with the document: “The work represented is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Agreement HR0011-17-2-0039)”, that is DARPA. These are new wild materials at this time. The authors also noted: “The content does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Government, and official support should not be inferred.”