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Concrete is all around us. Chances are that you’re reading this in a building at least partially constructed with concrete. Even though concrete is one of the most ubiquitous and useful building materials around, it is not without problems, chief amongst them being that it has a tendency to crack and those cracks can fill with water, further degrading the concrete or corroding the rebar inside. Repairs can be expensive and time consuming, but what if concrete could repair itself?
Microbiologist Henk Jonkers and concrete technologist Eric Schlangen have come up with a product that can repair itself. Dubbed “bio-concrete”, this new building material substitutes some of the aggregate in the concrete mix with hollow balls filled with bacteria and calcium lactate. Then water infiltrates the concrete, the balls break down and the bacteria eats the calcium lactate, converting it to calcite, filling the cracks and holes caused by rain and other forms of concrete degradation. Basically, this concrete plugs cracks with bacteria poo. Don’t believe us? You can see a video demonstration here:
The bio-concrete is currently being moved out of the lab for real world stress testing. If nothing goes wrong, we could potentially be seeing the self-repairing building material hit the market within two to three years.