Colorado researchers create self-healing “Frankenstein” concrete

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In Colorado, scientists have created a living concrete substitute using cyanobacteria that absorbs carbon and can actually repair itself.

University of Colorado Boulder professor Wil Srubar and his team blended cyanobacteria—a type of algae—with sand and nutrients to create calcium carbonate, but calcification was slow. Adding gelatin to the structure helped speed up the process.

“It really does look like a Frankenstein material,” Srubar told the New York Times. “It’s a lot like making rice crispy treats where you toughen the marshmallow by adding little bits of hard particles.”

The living concrete has a much better environmental footprint than concrete production, a significant emitter of carbon. The work was funded by the defense departments research arm, DARPA, and published in a recent issue of Matter.

“This is a material platform that sets the stage for brand new exciting materials that can be engineered to interact and respond to their environments,” Srubar adds. “We’re just scratching the surface and laying the foundation of a new discipline. The sky is the limit.”