Bio-Cement Producers Say Bacterias Might Build Cities in Near Future

Interesting Engineering

Biology melds with civil engineering as new science tries to create building materials using bacteria.

Scientists are modifying bacterias to produce bio-cement that might respond and strengthen the soil around them. Pressure responsive bacteria might save lives, resources, and the environment by strengthening buildings in the future, new research says.

A group of scientists from Northumbria and Newcastle universities identified genes in E. Coli bacteria, which are regulated by pressures of 10 atm (10 times that of sea level). Using this, they modified the bacteria to create a ‘gene circuit.’ This would enable the bacteria to respond to their environment by producing ‘bio-cements.’


Architecture academic Dr. Martyn Dade-Robertson, team leader, says:

“This is really exciting research. We are trying to create a responsive material which could have broad architectural applications, for example creating foundations for buildings without needing to dig trenches and fill them with concrete.”

biomason-biocement-10-micron[Image source: bioMASON]

According to latest research with bioMason, bacteria based bio-cements combines construction engineering, architecture, planning and landscape fields.

biomason-biocement[Image source: bioMASON]

Dr. Dade-Robertson suggests:

“The application hints the new way of doing design. Imagine designing structures at the scale of a building by altering the DNA of microscopic bacteria cells. Such a technology would push well beyond the current state of the art and challenge a new generation of engineering designers to think of multiple scales from molecular to the built environment and to anticipate civil engineering with living organisms.”

Researchers have also developed a new type of Computer Aided Design (CAD) application as a part of the project. The app replicates the stress and pressure within a volume of soil under a building. It also maps different sorts of gene expression, predicting where the bacteria are likely to produce materials.

bio-cement2[Image source: bioMASON]

However, the team is not the only one researching bio-cement technology. Civil Engineer Hendrik Marius Jonkers from Delft Technical University has been also working on the same field, by using different bacterias.

His focus comes from using the material in vertical structures like walls.

Key Benefits of Bio-Cement

Bio-cement has various benefits on hydraulics, earthquake liquefaction mitigation, bio-remediation, surface and subsurface treatments or basins, reservoirs or even drainage ditches. The smart cement slopes erosion, catches basins, stabilizes the unpaved roads and surfaces, and decreases the ease of water removing soils.

One of the best places to use bio-cement (as noted by BioCement Tech) would be around piers. Erosion can compromise a pier's structural integrity. Bio-cement could help that problem by holding the pier steady and resisting erosion.

SEE ALSO: How to Make Creepy Cement Hands for your Garden

Bio-cement can also mitigate hazardous waste, like exposed areas, by forming calcite bonds around these elements. Thus, the component is locking them into insoluble structures so they cannot migrate into groundwater.

Via Newcastle UniversityHendrik Marius Jonkers, BioCement Tech

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