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Living concrete that can heal itself

Professor Henk Jonkers, of Delft University of Technology, Netherlands has come up with an entirely new way of giving concrete a longer life. All concrete cracks at the end resulting in leakage or collapse. The bioconcrete invented by Jonkers heals by itself using bacteria’s.

The bioconcrete is mixed just like regular concrete, but with an extra ingredient — the healing agent. It remains intact during mixing, only dissolving and becoming active if the concrete cracks and water gets in.

Jonkers, a microbiologist, began working on it in 2006, when a concrete technologist asked him if it would be possible to use bacteria to make self-healing concrete. For this, bacteria should be able to survive the harsh environment of concrete that is extremely alkaline and the ‘healing’ bacteria must wait dormant for years before being activated by water. Jonkers chose bacillus bacteria for the job, because they thrive in alkaline conditions and produce spores that can survive for decades without food or oxygen. When cracks begin to form in the concrete, water enters and open the capsules. The bacteria then germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite, or limestone, which closes up the cracks.

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