‘Thinking Soil’ Will Change the Way We Build

Monika Kozub
November 13th 2016

What if we could forget about the problem of collapsing buildings for good? Maybe in the future this major constructional issue will be solved thanks to a special bacteria type, as recent researches showed.

"Imagine a column of sand saturated with billions of engineered bacteria cells. As a force is applied to the top of the column, bacteria in the sand detect an increase in pressure. The bacteria respond by synthesising a new biological material to bind the grains together and resisting the load. The resulting structure would consist of a material where sand grains are only cemented where the forces through the material require" scientists from Computational Colloids at Newcastle Univeristy describe their project.

Microbes were soaked in hydrogel solution which was meant to mimic soil. Later they were subjected to high pressures to observe which genes increased activity. Those parts of DNA can be modified in order to force bacteria to produce 'biocement' when pressured. As an addition to lab research, Computational Colloids developed a computer program to measure the natural forces, such as water pressure, and predict the reaction of bacteria.

We need to wait before we will be able to build our house on self-constructing foundation, able to respond to the natural shifts in the ground, but the first successful attempts to make it happen were already made.

Source: Science, Synbio.Construction

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