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The amazingly exciting intersection of construction materials and bacteria.
November 20, 2009 11:25 PM   Subscribe

Self-healing bio-concrete.
posted by lazaruslong (30 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
great, this stuff is going to grow exponentially, and in a few years we're all going to be covered in concrete.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:42 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. Awesome. I dug up some more info, if people are interested in written documentation.
bio-concrete
bio-concrete
posted by idiopath at 11:43 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


So cool. I can't wait until we have to worry about our buildings catching viruses (phages, I guess) and getting ill.
posted by floam at 11:44 PM on November 20, 2009


Not. On. My. Galactica.
posted by rokusan at 11:45 PM on November 20, 2009 [26 favorites]


Self-healing bio-concrete.

Will devour us all!

*jumps out window*
posted by dirigibleman at 11:46 PM on November 20, 2009


It looks kind of limited right now, they can only keep the bacteria alive and able to reinforce cracks for a few years at most, which is a fraction of the intended lifespan of most concrete structures. But as a hint of future possibilities it is awesome.
posted by idiopath at 11:48 PM on November 20, 2009


Aww, I was hoping this was going to be about Ron Lithgow.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:59 PM on November 20, 2009


/me adds "paint building in beef broth" to annual list of maintenance tasks.
posted by zippy at 12:03 AM on November 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


/me adds zippy's house to annual list of buildings to lick.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:32 AM on November 21, 2009 [13 favorites]


Given the limitation idiopath mentions, might this possibly be useful in patching up problem areas until there's enough to warrant a large-scale repair project? Slap some biocrete in cracks and such to keep things going, then when there's enough to warrant the expense, hire some guys to come in and do the actual patching.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:41 AM on November 21, 2009


Pope Guilty: "Slap some biocrete in cracks and such to keep things going"

One of the articles I linked to mentioned they tested that approach, and it did not work nearly as effectively as embedding bacteria+food in the concrete. I think in the long term if they can contain the bacteria in some sort of dehydrated lower metabolism state so they wake up and do their thing when water seeps in, it should be a viable long-term approach (I am imagining the bacteria could do that whole dried out suspended animation thing like tardigrades do, or something similar).
posted by idiopath at 12:46 AM on November 21, 2009


"It looks kind of limited right now, they can only keep the bacteria alive and able to reinforce cracks for a few years at most, which is a fraction of the intended lifespan of most concrete structures."

The upside is the majority of cracking occurs/starts during initial cure. Hydration causes the concrete to shrink and that sets up stresses leading to cracking. Patching those cracks is going to extend the life of concrete disproportionately to the life time of the bacteria.
posted by Mitheral at 1:04 AM on November 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:14 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Could this be combined´╗┐ with geo-polymer concrete? If it is repaired with calcium carbonate would it be better to start with a limestone base?

(The above is actually a YouTube comment from the linked page. I reprinted it here so that people might momentarily think that I am smart.)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:46 AM on November 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


If only these walls could talk. Or at least metabolically produce calcite granules.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:03 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


It look to me like the benefit would be that this stuff could seal up small cracks before they become large cracks. It's pretty much a fundamental property of concrete that it's gonna crack. That's why they cut control joints and sawcut slabs- so that the concrete cracks in a manner that can be somewhat controlled. But there will always be other cracks, too. If this stuff heals those little cracks before water gets in them and expands them, then it could be really valuable. That's pretty good stuff, right there.
posted by Shohn at 5:54 AM on November 21, 2009


Wait... so if you get enough cracks in a concrete building over time, it will eventually turn into marble?

That's pretty awesome.
posted by Decimask at 6:14 AM on November 21, 2009


I am so into the way that duded says concrete, it sounds like a delicious dessert.
posted by banannafish at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2009


The above is actually a YouTube comment from the linked page. I reprinted it here so that people might momentarily think that I am smart.

I'm amazed that this sentence exists and will bet my fortune that it is never said again for the rest of time.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:54 AM on November 21, 2009 [9 favorites]


Never, ever allow this guy to meet the Mandelbulb guy and the non-Newtonian fluid subwoofer guy.
posted by chronkite at 6:58 AM on November 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


The above is actually a YouTube comment from the linked page. I reprinted it here so that people might momentarily think that I am smart.

The above is actually quoted from flapjax at midnights' comment. I reprinted it here for Midnight Rambler's fortune.
posted by xorry at 7:48 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Only self healing, huh? Pfff.
posted by DU at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2009


Would it be possible to load up the concrete with bacterial spores? Spores can stay dormant for pretty close to forever, so they could be stored in the concrete, and when it's time for maintenance, the concrete is sprayed with a nutrient broth & heated to activate bacterial growth.

I'm sure it's not that simple, but it makes sense in my head.
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2009


Oh Noes!
This will put people out of jobs!! The roads won't need repair anymore!
Fat chance.
posted by Drasher at 10:06 AM on November 21, 2009


This sounds pretty useful. Maybe the mafia could use this to make sure that stool pigeons sleep with the fishes for a little longer.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:14 AM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we had this technology a few decades ago, would the Berlin Wall have fought back?
posted by zippy at 12:58 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was tempted to make another joke about this but considering how poorly a lot of concrete structures have faired, particularly in my local climate, this sounds like a promising idea. It just has to be cold and salt-resistant...
posted by tommasz at 1:30 PM on November 21, 2009


Cold and Salt-resistant? There's a couple of traits I think of when I think "bacteria".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:43 PM on November 21, 2009


Holy crap! I made up this stuff when GMing a Shadowrun game a few years ago! I'm totally stoked to see it made real!

(Oddly, my players were WAY more creeped out by the "living wall" than they were by the bio-mechanical drones commanded by chimpanzee brains and lots of cyberware. They were earnestly discussing burning the whole facility to the ground over what amounted to a coral reef with some education. I was mystified, but ran with it.)
posted by Scattercat at 5:50 PM on November 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


bio-concrete is people!!!
posted by pianomover at 8:47 PM on November 21, 2009


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