Living Concrete Repairs Itself

Cracked, ruined concrete is everywhere in America and around the world. But Henk Jonkers has a better idea - self-healing concrete that's alive.

(Living concrete is self-repairing)

What he did find is a kind of bacteria that lies dormant until activated by water. Water is exactly what causes many concrete structures to crack further after they've suffered an initial abrasion—the water gets in, freezes, and expands. The idea is that the bacteria put a stop to that. The bacillus bacteria comes out of its spore hibernation when activated by water and thrives in the concrete environment. They're stored in a small plastic bubble along with calcium lactate, which is mixed in with the concrete. When cracks form and water gets in, it melts the plastic shell, exposing the bacteria to the water. The microorganisms come out of dormancy and feed on the calcium lactate, producing limestone inside the concrete.

SF fans were treated to a very early description of self-healing materials in the 1951 story Asteroid of Fear, by Golden Age great Raymond Z. Gallun. Consider this unique plastic that can repair itself:

But the wide roof was all the way up, now—intact. It made a great, squarish bubble, the skin of which [a 'transparent, wire-strengthened plastic '] was specially treated to stop the hard and dangerous part of the ultra-violet rays of the sun, and also the lethal portion of the cosmic rays. It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures that grain-of-sand-sized meteors might make.
(Read more about self-healing plastic)

Also, J.G. Ballard described a bendable, self-healing material in his 1962 short story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista. Ballard wrote about plastex.

Via Popular Mechanics.

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