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Growing Bricks and Concrete

by Dyami Rodriguez, age 14 - (with permission of the Simpson Street Free Press)

Ever thought that we could walk on concrete made out of gelatin? Well, a research team at the University of Colorado has come up with a new kind of concrete that is alive and can even reproduce.

This new concrete is made out of cyanobacteria, a common class of microbes that can obtain energy through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis also adds a green color to the concrete. “It really does look like a Frankenstein,” stated engineer and head of the project, Wil Srubar.

` This innovation helps our ecosystem because the process uses up carbon dioxide to grow the concrete. Normal concrete releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, which carry a substantial amount of carbon dioxide. So, the new concrete would prove to be beneficial for our environment as our world is facing climate change.

Their first experiment making this concrete starts by using warm water, sand, and nutrients. Next, the mixture is given light. It slowly starts to produce calcium, cementing the sand particles together, which is a slow process. The Defense Advanced Research Agency wanted a faster outcome.

With the help of Dr. Srubar, they made it work. He suggested using gelatin instead of the previous mixture, because it forms stronger bonds with its molecules. In practice, gelatin ended up forming a stronger bond as well as providing more structure.

This living concrete is a step towards sustainability for our ecosystem because it reuses carbon dioxide. However there is one problem: the concrete is weaker than other conventional concretes. Scientists will continue to find ways to make this concrete stronger and make it a viable option for the future.

[Source: The New York Times]


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