‘Living Concrete’ That Heals Itself Might Reach the Space

Scientists have unveiled a new bio-concrete that is environmentally friendly and able to repair itself if damaged.

The designed self-replicating textures are known as Designed Living Materials (ELM), are usually created by adding a bacterium to an inactive substance. There are a number of reasons why concrete fissures, but overall, it gets pressured from the load that is carrying, the weather, or natural forces, cracking under stress. Nevertheless, broken concrete is not something people want to see in a building or on the street.

Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, have designed what The New York Times dubbed a ‘living concrete,’ filled with photosynthetic bacteria, that has the ability to grow and also regenerate itself, similar to a living organism.

The concrete is a combination of gelatin, sand, and cyanobacteria that grows cold in a similar way to Jell-O, the Times says. The resulting form was capable of regenerating itself three different times after the scientists cut it apart, implying a potential advance in the incipient field of self-assembling structures.

Growing Back to Life

The ‘living concrete,’ which the Colorado researchers created in collaboration with DARPA, has at the start a silky green color that disappears as the bacteria dies off, a study published Wednesday in the journal Matter, said.

“It really does look like a Frankenstein material,” UC Boulder engineer and project leader Will Srubar told the New York Times.

Even as the color disappears, the bacteria survive for a few more weeks and can be brought back to life, which results in further growth under particular conditions.

Inhospitable Settings

DARPA is especially interested in a self-growing material that it can utilize to build structures in isolated desert regions, or potentially even in space, the NYT said.

If the ‘living concrete’ can ever reach that level, it could help decrease the amount, as well as weight, of elements that space agencies will have to send to space.

“There’s no way we’re going to carry building materials to space,” Srubar told the NYT. “We’ll bring biology with us.”

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