‘Bioconcrete’ uses bacteria to heal itself

14th February, 2013 by Kyla Mandel

Dutch researchers have developed a self-healing cement that turns water-logged cracks to its advantage.

No product evokes a sense of solidity and sturdiness the way concrete does. However, the tiniest of cracks in an otherwise colossal slab will inevitably lead to structural degradation, leakages and costly repairs.

It is precisely this problem that two Dutch researchers from Delft Technical University have been working on. Beginning in 2006, Henk Jonkers, a microbiologist, and Eric Schlangen, a specialist in concrete development, sought to develop a self-healing cement [pictured] that would stop cracks from forming in the concrete, thereby extending the life of constructions.

Microcracks have a width of just 0.2-0.4mm, but that’s enough for water to leak in, degrading the concrete and the steel reinforcements embedded within it. Using the potentially damaging water to their advantage, Jonkers and Schlangen added a healing agent into the concrete, composed of bacterial spores and a feed.

Jonkers explains that the incoming water activates the bacterial spores, causing them to convert the feed into limestone, which seals the crack. Tunnels, basements and highway infrastructure are ideal ‘wet environments’ which will benefit from this innovation.

Read more: 'Bioconcrete' uses bacteria to heal itself | Green Futures Magazine.

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