IT’S ALIVE! (SORT OF)


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Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder have created a form of concrete that can reproduce and can heal itself if damaged.
Beginning with a particularly robust strain of bacteria, researchers mixed the bugs with sand and a hydrogel holding water and nutrients to feed the microbes. As the bugs flourished and multiplied, they excreted calcium carbonate – another name for limestone.
When the material dried, it proved to be as strong as mortar made from cement.
The researchers then split the resulting block and added more sand and nutrient-laden hydrogel to the two halves. The halves then grew into two full-size blocks. The team split those blocks, split the offspring, and wound up with eight blocks.
The bio blocks also can “heal” themselves if they crack, filling in the gaps.
The developers see the new material as a replacement for fossil-based road pavement and conventional concrete, all of which demand large amounts of energy to produce through processes that belch as much as 6 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
TRENDPOST: The emerging field of “engineered living materials” is yielding a new class of matter that brings the qualities of life – motion, reproduction, and self-healing, among others – to what has been inanimate objects. New companies and industries will grow out of this basic research now under way.

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