Researchers from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands have developed concrete that can heal itself using special bacteria. Concrete is the most widely used building material in the world but is prone to cracks which means that it needs to be reinforced with steel and in some cases fixed or replaced when cracks expand too much.
Two researchers from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands – Henk Jonkers, a microbiologist and Eric Schlangen who specializes on concrete development, have been working for the past several years on a new type of concrete which can self regenerative properties.
During testing Jonkers and Schlangen mixed bacteria into a cement paste and after a month they found the spores of three particular bacteria where still viable. Jonkers and Schlangen added a harmless bacteria known as Bacillus genus to the concrete which remained dormant until rainwater entered the cracks which occur naturally inside concrete. The bacteria used the nutrients the researchers incorporated into the cement (calcium lactate – a component of milk).
According to Dr Jonkers: "In the lab we have been able to show healing of cracks with a width of 0.5mm. Now we are upscaling. We have to produce the self-healing agent in huge quantities and we are starting to do outdoor tests, looking at different constructions, different types of concrete to see if this concept really works in practice ".
The main challenge of the self healing concrete project is to ensure the healing agent can survive the mixing process. In order to do that the researchers had to coat the healing agent particles which is an expensive process. They are hoping that they will be able to reduce the cost within the next 6 months. After that time a new series of test should begin – this time outside the laboratory in real world conditions. The researchers are already in discussions with several companies to examine the commercialization of the technology – something that might take at least two more years.
- A video showing the BioConcrete
More information about the self healing concrete can be found on the Delft Technical University website.
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.
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