Did you know that the U.K. spends roughly 58 billion dollars and uses 40 billion pounds of concrete to fix their structures each year? (1) There is now a concrete that can fix damage without human contact, it is called self-healing concrete (4). This concrete shows a very innovating idea and concept but could also use some improvements.
This self-healing concrete uses small bacteria (which is placed in tiny capsules and mixed into the concrete) that produce limestone when it encounters water to fill in any damage or cracks that appear during the structures life time (2). This concrete makes it possible to correct damages before it gets noticed and to ensure building collapses happen less frequently. Above you can see the before and after pictures of a crack “fixing” itself (4) Though this idea seems like an amazing concept and application, there are some improvements I feel could to be made.
These bacteria produce limestone to fill in these cracks but just how strong is limestone? It can weather due to simple rain water so over time the limestone crack could slowly get washed away (3). Yes, correcting the crack with limestone for a short period of time seems very innovative but as time goes on it seems that a stronger material would be needed to completely ignore the damages. These tiny capsules of bacteria can also be expensive to make and mix into the concrete because they need a special nutrient but what if this nutrient could be replaced with something more cost effective? If this material didn’t cost twice as much as regular concrete it would be much easier for people to incorporate into structures (2).
This material is extremely innovating but is not quite ready to be used until it is more cost efficient and shows that it cannot only fix the damage but also withstand weathering and continue to hold up the structure for years to come. As technology moves forward there are ways to genetically change the bacteria to make the material produced much stronger and the discovery of a new nutrient is always possible!
(1) Brownell, Blaine. “Five Cutting-Edge Building Materials to Watch in 2016.”Architect. N.p., 17 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.
(2) Davis, Josh. “Self-Healing Concrete Repairs Its Own Cracks.”IFLScience. N.p., 27 May 2016. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.
(3) “Limestone (Karst) Features – Overview.” What Is Limestone? N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
(4) Stewart, Andrew. “The ‘living Concrete’ That Can Heal Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.