Biosystems Scientists create living concrete from bacteria and sand.
|arch shape from living concrete|
Cement is one of the most widely used building materials in the world due to its low cost and longevity. While its usage is only increasing, its production is one of the world’s leading contributors of CO2 emissions, with 2.8 gigatons produced each year.
Action to curb these emissions through alternative production methods or substitute materials are currently being explored by researchers around the world, though none have come close to reproducing cement’s desirable qualities.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have combined sand, a hydrogel, and bacteria into a living material that has similar strength to cement-based mortar, as well as the ability to carry out biological functions.
“Microorganisms can be leveraged for multiple purposes in the design of [living building materials], including increasing the rate of manufacturing, imparting mechanical benefit, and sustaining biological function,” said the authors in the study.
The team used a 3D sand–hydrogel scaffold that they inoculated with Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 (Synechococcus) — a photosynthetic cyanobacterium that converts CO2 to sugars during photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria are well known to survive extreme environmental conditions, including high and low temperature, salinity, and humidity, making them ideal candidates for living materials.
We use photosynthetic cyanobacteria to biomineralize the scaffold, so it actually is really green. It looks like a Frankenstein-type material,” said senior author Wil Srubar, who heads the Living Materials Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to create — something that stays alive.”
Sources By Victoria Corless
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