Developed Concrete Paver Molds With Endless Application Potential

by Samuel Jackson
Concrete Paver Molds

Researchers from the University of Colorado (USA) have created an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete. The building material is a biomineralized hydrogel-sand substance, which, thanks to the work of bacteria, turns sand into bricks. Moreover, the material is as durable as ordinary concrete paver molds, according to an article published in the Matter edition.

An amazing property of this material is that it is alive, which means it is able to “multiply”: bricks can reproduce themselves and, thanks to the bacteria living in them, can be equipped with various functions.

Moreover, in the production of “live” concrete, unlike conventional concrete, practically no CO2 is emitted. It is estimated that about 6% of global CO2 emissions come from the production of cement, one of the constituents of concrete. Bacteria that work in living bricks, on the other hand, absorb greenhouse gases.

Researchers from the University of Colorado (USA) have created an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete. The building material is a biomineralized hydrogel-sand substance, which, thanks to the work of bacteria, turns sand into bricks. Moreover, the material is as durable as ordinary concrete, according to an article published in the Matter edition.

An amazing property of this material is that it is alive, which means it is able to “multiply”: bricks can reproduce themselves and, thanks to the bacteria living in them, can be equipped with various functions.

For which inventors from Voronezh received an award from the Ministry of Industry and Trade
Moreover, in the production of “live” concrete, unlike conventional concrete, practically no CO2 is emitted. It is estimated that about 6% of global CO2 emissions come from the production of cement, one of the constituents of concrete. Bacteria that work in living bricks, on the other hand, absorb greenhouse gases.

How it works?

Scientists took the bacteria of the genus Synechococcus as a basis, placed them in a hydrogel nutrient medium and mixed with sand. The gel-like mass provides them with substances and moisture necessary for life. Bacteria, receiving nutrition from this environment, grow and produce calcium carbonate, that is, mineralization processes take place – similar to how shells are formed in mussels.

According to scientists, living material can multiply under the right conditions. If you break a brick in the middle, two halves after a while will turn into two full-fledged bricks: cyanobacteria will “grow” two whole bricks from the halves, if sand, hydrogel and nutrients are added to each of them. The team of Chelsea Heveran, the project manager, managed to grow eight bricks from one parent. Moreover, the “living” material is as strong as ordinary concrete. “You can step on it and it won’t break,” says Will Srubar, co-author of the work.

However, there is one significant problem: too much drought threatens the survival of bacteria in the material. The challenge for scientists is to find a balance to ensure both the structural integrity of the material and the viability of the microbes. At 30 percent relative humidity, between 9 percent and 14 percent, the bacteria in the material were still alive after 30 days, Heveran’s team found. “This is significantly more than expected,” the researchers emphasize. Cyanobacteria were added to cement to repair cracks, but their survival rate was low – less than one percent.

By adjusting the temperature and humidity, it is possible to transfer the work of bacteria to a state of rest, or, on the contrary, to stimulate their activity by pressing a button: “waking up”, they grow again and can, for example, repair damage to the structure of a building.

“Living” material, the authors believe, has a fantastic potential in terms of scale of application: “The introduction of these building materials into life can create a completely new discipline with an infinite number of possible applications. There are no limits to creativity.” In particular, the researchers suggest, it would be possible to create a material with a biological function – such concrete could capture the presence of toxic substances in the air and absorb them. And, of course, it will come in handy in conditions with limited supplies of raw materials – for example, in the desert or on the Moon or Mars. “In a barren environment, these building materials are very good because they mostly require the sun to grow,” Srubar says. “I think that one day we will not take bags of cement with us to Mars, but bioorganisms.”

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