Researchers develop new bacteria coating to protect buildings from erosion

The team used a non-pathogenic version of these tiny critters for this newly developed coating.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Jura Distillery.jpg
Jura Distillery

Wind and rain frequently erode unprotected building surfaces. Resultant, the exposed surface deteriorates over time, necessitating more frequent maintenance services.

Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire used bacteria to develop a new protective limewash mixture that could protect buildings from erosion.

Limewash coating made of bacteria 

The team used a non-pathogenic version of these tiny critters for this newly developed coating. Limewash coating, which is commonly used to whitewash walls and ceilings, is made up of a variety of mixtures, including lime and water.

The new coating creates a chain of self-repairing mechanisms to shield the surface, starting with microbes absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) via photosynthesis, explains the press release. As a result, an additional calcium carbonate barrier gets formed — acting as a buffer and protecting the surface from erosion.

"This fits exactly with our ethos of improving the technical performance of buildings in the real world whilst lowering their carbon footprint," said Alex Sparrow, managing director of U.K.'s Hempcrete.

The team is now working with the University's Zero Carbon Lab and a manufacturing company called U.K. Hempcrete Ltd to create a prototype.

When the prototype is complete, the first test will be held at Whyte & Mackay Ltd on the Isle of Jura, off the west coast of Scotland. The prototype is expected to be ready by July, while testing will last for three to six months.

This winery is an ideal testbed as it is subjected to a combination of wind and rain, which damages the surface coating and reduces strength. As a result, it increases the surface repair process, which has a negative impact on the company's production, local tourism, and even the climate.

A step to curb carbon emissions

This first-of-its-kind coating could be game-changing in many ways for the distillery, particularly for combating climate change. Maintenance logistics from annual recoating have their own carbon footprint as a large amount of material needs to be transported to the island.

Furthermore, the innovation aligns with the distillery's zero-carbon commitments. "The Isle of Jura is a beautiful place to make Scotch Whisky, but it is not necessarily the easiest place to be a whisky maker. When we created our sustainability plan, The Green Print, we laid out our commitment to make a positive impact on the local community where we make our whisky," said Jamie Muir, Jura Distillery Manager for Whyte & Mackay.

Last but not least. The team hopes that it will also boost the local tourism economy linked to the winery industry. According to the official statement, the project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Design Exchange Partnership program.

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