Self Healing Concrete

Biological concrete could usher in a new era of self-healing civil structures.

Self-healing is one of nature's most remarkable talents. It continues to fascinate us, as doctors make huge leaps in regenerative medicine. But away from the medical field, engineers are hoping to harness nature's healing power for a very different application - and one that could go deep into our built environment.

Researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands are working on replicating the same processes we use to heal our bodies, within concrete. They claim that within two to four years, they will be able to commercialise a 'biological concrete' that will have the ability to repair itself under tensile forces.

If they’re successful, it could mean that concrete structures will no longer face deterioration before the end of their service life. It’s a major problem for the construction industry. As an integral part of our infrastructure, concrete is a valuable material, but it suffers from a serious flaw: it develops micro cracks within a matter of weeks when under tension.

This makes the whole structure weak as water can seep in, damaging both the concrete and the building’s steel reinforcement. Structures such as underground basements, motorway bridges and tunnels are particularly vulnerable, and repairs using concrete mortar are expensive and time consuming. Far better would be to use a material that heals itself just as a crack begins to appear.

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Source: The Engineer (UK)