City Made Of Bone
Is there a better way to construct cities? Steel and concrete, along with their advantages, are very energy-intensive ways to build. Perhaps Nature can point the way...
[Bioengineer Dr Michelle Oyen of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering] works in the field of biomimetics – literally ‘copying life’. In her lab, with funding support from the US Army Corps of Engineers, she constructs small samples of artificial bone and eggshell, which could be used as medical implants, or even be scaled up and used as low-carbon building materials.
Like the real things, artificial bone and eggshell are composites of proteins and minerals. In bone, the proportions of protein and mineral are roughly equal – the mineral gives bone stiffness and hardness, while the protein gives it toughness or resistance to fracture. While bones can break, it is relatively rare, and they have the benefit of being self-healing – another feature that engineers are trying to bring to biomimetic materials.
In eggshell, the ratios are different: about 95% mineral to 5% protein, but even this small amount of protein makes eggshell remarkably tough considering how thin it is.
When making the artificial bone and eggshell, the mineral components are ‘templated’ directly onto collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the animal world. “One of the interesting things is that the minerals that make up bone deposit along the collagen, and eggshell deposits outwards from the collagen, perpendicular to it,” says Oyen. “So it might even be the case that these two composites could be combined to make a lattice-type structure, which would be even stronger – there’s some interesting science there that we’d like to look into.”
In her lab, Oyen and her team have been making samples of artificial eggshell and bone via a process that could be easily scaled up – and since the process takes place at room temperature, the samples take very little energy to produce. But it may be some time before we’re living in bone and eggshell houses.
This is a similar idea to architectural coral, an idea proposed by Larry Niven in his 1968 novel A Gift From Earth. Here's how it works:
The remnants of the shaping balloon, which gave all architectural coral buildings their telltale bulge, had been carefully scraped away...
...A genetic manipulation of ordinary sea coral, it was the cheapest building material known. The only real cost was in the plastic balloon that guided the growth of the coral and enclosed the coral's special air-borne food.
(Read more about Larry Niven's architectural coral)
The article continues by pointing out the advantages of using a natural material like timber to construct buildings; skyscrapers as tall as 14 stories have been constructed.
Wouldn't it be easier to grow them? Take a look at this article on the house trees if the Iszic. If you want to go all natural, Dr. Oren, this is the way to go.
Via The University of Cambridge; thanks to (((Æthelind))) for pointing this item out.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/14/2016)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Seasteading Floating Cities
'It was a remarkable island, circular, about half a kilometer in diameter.' - Otfrid von Hanstein, 1930.
Aequoreas Floating Village 3D Printed From Ocean Junk
'... the Floating Island chain of independent international corporate entities.' - Larry Niven, 2000.
PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...' - Clifford Simak, 1952.
Rosemont Hotel Dubai Has Lobby Rainforest
'The braided waterfalls and hanging gardens that spilled down the arcology's levels..' - Paolo Bacigalupi, 2015.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Soft Robotics - Now With 3D Printed Sensors!
'A series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone...'
AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom
'The structure,... was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us...'
Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.'
Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme.
Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.'
Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...'
Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.'
IJOP Integrated Joint Operations Platform China's Minority Report?
'All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs...'
HushMe Bluetooth Device Reinvents The Hush-A-Phone
'Talking into a hush-a-phone which he had plugged into the telephone jack...'
Ultrathin Brain Needle Developed At MIT
Putting drugs into a selected cubic millimeter within the living brain.
Tesla Semi Truck Now At Work
Why wait? Tesla Semi now hard at work.
Illustris: The Next Generation Of Universe Simulation
'This digital device was ... A machine able literally to contain the Universe Itself...'
Scaly Yet Soft Robotic Snake
Love those robotic sneks.
Cool Tinsley Lunar Unicycle Update
Great update of a timeless classic.
NASA's 'Armstrong' Soft Wearable Upper Extremity Garment
'Exact same articulation as your shoulder joint, and it holds your muscles out of the way...'
Kuri Robot Roams Your Home, Taking Pictures
'Small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories