Bacteria and urea turn sand into concrete




All it takes is disease and urine? If that's true, every elementary school sandbox would look like part of the Colosseum...


"Okay fellas, we've got a foundation to pour let's get to pissin!!


I do believe this current epoch will be known as the age of the microbe. flexible touch displays and immersive VR are nice and fun, but the things we've discovered in the last 30 years about DNA recombination and microbes as molecular workhorses is mindbogglingly fascinating. I think this calls for the development of a new strain of "___punk." SlimePunk?

EDIT: for more thoughts...
Perhaps this will be the defining factor of Generation Z that the aging Gen Y-ers complain about. The up and coming generation that doesn't remember a time when we didn't have control and access to micro-biological processes. biotechnological natives.


Well, the typical payment for helping a friend with such a task is beer, so I guess this simplifies things.


Check this out - ORE Design, a NYC design firm, took first place in the 2010 International Incheon Design Association competition for their notional sand-into-concrete technology. It is also predicated on bacteria use:

It's pretty interesting stuff, and seems like it could potentially pave the way* for a more ecologically sound means of road construction.



For industrial production, the urea would have to be synthetically produced from ammonia, which is produced using the Haber process. Ammonia is such an important mode of fixing nitrogen (splitting the n2 molecule) that the Haber process uses something like 1/20th of the human world's total industrial energy production. I don't know if the process in the cited article would use more or less energy (or be more or less carbon-intensive) than current cement-making processes, but I suspect that things like this would have to wait until we begin fixing nitrogen in some successor process... using bacteria.

Industrial processes in general are going to change from using great heat and pressure to move electrons around in giant reactors to using bacteria, sunlight, and maybe adding electrons directly to the mix when focused sunlight doesn't give the bacteria enough energy density. More power to the folks who do these experiments, but the whole chain of industrial electron twiddling needs to be considered.


They also added calcium chloride. Neither this nor the linked Wired article give details on the chemistry, but I expect that there is some reaction between the CO2 that comes from the hydrolysis of urea (to ammonia and CO2), and the CaCl2. Theoretically this would yield CaCO3 and NH4Cl, which mixture has previously been used as mineral formation catalysts, albeit at higher temperature: And NH4Cl by itself reacts with silicates: ... my only question is what the bacteria are doing in there. I guess I'll need to track down the actual thesis to answer that question.
Anyway, pretty neat. We'd need to know what the energy inputs to produce urea and CaCl2 are before concluding that this is actually greener than conventional concrete, though.


Why do people think CO2 is something to worry about? CO2 is what plants breathe to make oxygen!


Great lets all move to Venus then.


It also absorbs some EM radiation in some IR wavelengths, which has consequences which you can find a clear derivation of in any undergraduate text on statistical physics.


I'm just assuming there was a sarcasm tag around the Jewels_Vern post.


Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

I think that might be channeling Michelle Bachmann:
Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth.
As a matter of fact, carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful!
But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle.


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