backtop


Print 23 comment(s) - last by goku.. on Dec 3 at 4:56 AM


  (Source: Handyguys Podcast)

UK microbiologist Jennifer Hallinan wants to put her super hard rod (Bacillus) bacteria into concrete's tight cracks.  (Source: Flickr)
New technology could repair earthquake, aging, and road-wear damage

After many long, hard days of work, researchers at University of Newcastle feel they are nearly ready to put their special bacteria into concrete's dirty cracks.

If you look at the average city street it is chock full of gaping potholes and many a crack.  The researchers are taking advantage of bacterial life's wonderful diversity and its ability to rapidly evolve to plug up these dirty holes, preventing them from damaging vehicles.

The thrust of the research is to optimize the tiny microbes -- "BacillaFilla" -- to produce a super-hard rod-shaped bacterial skeleton reinforced by calcium carbonate and a special bacterial "glue".  What might surprise some is that the bacteria has very pedestrian origins, being derived from
Bacillus subtilis, a common soil bacteria.

When the genetically modified critters come into contact with some hole or crack in a specific pH of concrete, they germinate, plunge as deep into it as they can (via so-called "quorum sensing"), and start procreating.  At a certain point, though, the colony is genetically programmed to self-destruct to avoid a sloppy mess of artificial concrete.

The resulting plug is reportedly as strong as standard concrete.

Jennifer Hallinan, a research fellow in complex systems at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom says the material could be valuable, not only to roads, but also to buildings, particularly those affected by aging or earthquakes.  She states, "Finding a way of prolonging the lifespan of existing structures means we could reduce this environmental impact and work towards a more sustainable solution.  This could be particularly useful in earthquake zones where hundreds of buildings have to be flattened because there is currently no easy way of repairing the cracks and making them structurally sound."

Ms. Hallinan is a pretty prolific scientific author, and one of her reports on the microbes published at a biology conference is available here [PDF].  While publication is one goal of her team, ultimately their invention could be incredible financially lucrative as well.

So next time you see a dirty crack, don't despair.  The University of Newcastle is hard at work designing a solution to plug it up.



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: worth exploring, but
By MozeeToby on 11/18/2010 12:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
Any time you modify a bacteria to do a job you want, you increase it's energy usage accordingly. It takes energy to produce the magic glue that the bacteria would normally use for other things. In other words, if it starts to grow out of control all you need to do is spread some of the non-modified bacteria around and let it out-compete the modified stuff. The only exception would be the extremely unlikely scenario that our modifications manage to produce a survival trait that billions of years of evolution hasn't stumbled on (and even then, a little bleach will take care of the problem quite easily).


"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki