It is a well known fact that the cement industry is one of the most polluting ones, right up there with coal burning power plants. This is why many concerned scientists and engineers have been trying to come up with alternative cement-like materials, which cause as little harm to the environment as possible. Unfortunately, regardless of all the great efforts, we hardly ever hear of a successful story, the result from which can really be used outside the lab.
This is probably the reason why when two Dutch scientists from University of Delft- Eric Schlangen and Henk Jonkers, first presented their invention of an eco-friendly, bio-concrete, which can regenerate itself when cracks occur, many looked at the news very skeptically. But, no negative responses could stay in the way of the two guys, who had one and only aim- to construct an entire building out of their miracle bio-material.
Now, three years after the world learnt about their invention, the scientists proudly present the first ever complete building, which can repair itself and prevent structural degradation. The bio-cement that makes up the small lifeguard station, located on the coast of a small lake, consists of bacteria and calcium lactate. When a crack occurs, the bacteria, which can survive for years without food or oxygen, are activated with water. They begin to feed on the calcium lactate, and produce calcite, which is then accumulated it in the space of the crack.
It is always great to see that people are actively working towards developing eco-friendly materials that function just as well as the original, more polluting ones. It is a shame that more often than not, the scientific experiments stay only in the lab and never reach the real-world. This is probably what happened to the other team from University of Michigan, who were also working on self-healing concrete back in 2012.
This is why the bio-concrete with self-healing properties by the Dutch guys is truly remarkable. Let’s hope that the idea is viable and we soon see the material being used in most modern constructions. I don’t see why not, after all it seems like it could save a lot of money in a long run.
Image (c) CNN