Could a living concrete help reduce emissions from the global construction industry?
Researchers from the Living Materials Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder say it could do just that – they have found a way to combine sand and bacteria to build a green living material that demonstrates similar strength to cement-based mortar.
This is achieved by creating a ‘scaffold’ out of sand and hydrogel for the bacteria to grow in – the hydrogel retains moisture and nutrients for the bacteria to proliferate and mineralise, while the sand works to hold it all together.
The material can even ‘reproduce’ – if a brick of the material is split in half, the bacteria can grow into two complete bricks if provided with more extra sand, hydrogel and nutrients.
Currently, the production of cement is responsible for 6% of carbon dioxide emissions and concrete also releases carbon dioxide when it cures.
The scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder say materials like the one they have created could help move away from the reliance on polluting construction materials and processes.