A Concrete that is Alive and Can Totally Fix Itself

Healing the cracks, a bio-concrete was invented using bacteria that could potentially save billions of dollars.

It’s been used by the ancient Egyptians around 3,000 BC, used by the Chinese to build the Great Wall and made famous by the Romans (think the Pantheon)…

Hendrik Jonkers with Bio-Concrete. Credit: European Patent Office

Concrete has been a foundation of human evolvement.

However, the substance has its flaws.

Over time, it produces cracks and obviously, cracks can lead to collapse.

But as humans move towards new heights and innovations, so will our technology.

One microbiologist, Hendrik Marius Jonkers, of Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, is redefining the way we use concrete.

He has invented a self-healing bio-concrete to provide a cheap and sustainable solution to the erosion over time and tension.

“Thinking about the how bones in the human body are healed naturally through mineralization from osteoblast cells, Jonkers set about creating a similar self-regeneration technique for our most widely used construction material,” European Patent Office wrote.

“The solution that he landed upon employs a limestone-producing bacteria to close up gaps in concrete. The robust, naturally occurring bacteria ̶ either Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii, already exist in highly alkaline lakes near volcanoes and seemed tailor-made for the job. They are able to lie dormant for up to 200 years and only begin important repair work only after cracks appear and it comes into contact with water.”

What makes this so amazing is that specific types of bacteria along with nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium lactate are added to an already existing concrete mix.

The bacteria will then lay dormant within the concrete for a very long time … like two centuries.

When it cracks and in result, releases air and moisture, the bacteria awakens and gets to work.

Well, it actually begins to eat the calcium lactate and oxygen, producing insoluble limestone, which sets in the cracks, sealing them up!

Jonkers was a Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2015.