Brief 

Self-healing concrete could reduce the costs of repairing concrete infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and buildings. The bacteria-based concrete produces calcium carbonate to harden and seal cracks.

 

Insight

Stone and concrete structures with the ability to heal themselves in a similar way to living organisms when damaged could help to make buildings safer and last longer.Over time the weather, vibration, ground movements and general wear and tear can take their toll on the masonry and concrete used in buildings.

But keeping buildings in a good state of repair can be expensive and difficult. Hairline cracks and other damage below the wall surface can be hard to detect. With large numbers of historic buildings and ageing infrastructure, Europe faces an enormous task keeping its buildings in a good state.

To maintain and repair the EU’s 1.1 million bridges alone requires an estimated budget of €4-6 billion every year while replacing them could cost more than €400 billion. And as around a fifth of the houses in the EU are more than 69 years old – according to data from 2015 – keeping these in a liveable state will become a growing burden for the construction industry.

It has led some scientists to ask whether it might be possible for buildings to take care of themselves.‘Although natural stone structures and objects may have survived over the centuries, weathering and everyday stresses cause damage and deterioration,’ said Dr Magdalini Theodoridou, an engineer and Newcastle University academic track fellow at the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment, UK.

 

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