Sustainable self-healing concrete
At the University of Bath, a team of researchers from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry and the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering are working on a new compound to add to cement to lengthen its lifetime: bacteria microcapsules.
This research is made in collaboration with Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge. The scientists at the University of Bath are in charge of developing a concrete mixture which will contain the bacteria microcapsules. The idea is that when cement ages and cracks, water can infiltrate in the gaps and reach the steel foundation support, making it corrode. Water penetration into the structure makes bacteria germinate, which in turn produces calcite, or limestone, that can plug the fractures. This would significantly extend the lifetime of concrete structures, possibly up to 50% longer. Also, cement production being an important source of global carbon dioxide emissions, making it last for longer would be environmentally beneficial. One of the tricky bits about adding bacteria to cement is in the nature of cement itself. When cement dries up, it contracts, leaving smaller and smaller spaces for the bacteria to live in. That is why the team of researchers thought about enclosing them into microcapsules, which would protect them from this compression.
A self-repairing concrete is a very appealing idea, especially for very large, intensively used or difficult to access structures. The maintenance cost of such concrete would be considerably reduced.
Keep an eye on the updates on University of Bath’s website: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/2014/12/03/micro-capsules-and-bacteria-to-be-used-in-self-healing-concrete/
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