The last five years have seen the increase of concrete building and home improvement projects. From countertops to patios or entire 3D printed homes, concrete usage offers a durable, attractive material alternative that reduces overall building and renovating costs.
Although it is fireproof and hardy, concrete has some drawbacks. Exposure to the elements and heavy usage can lead to cracking as evidenced in the current deterioration of US roads, overpasses, and bridges. This has pressured government officials and university researchers to find a way to patch the nation’s ‘crumbling infrastructure’.
Researchers at Binghamton University took on the challenge and created a concrete that heals itself. Beginning in 2013, Assistant Professor Congruity Jin started investigating the problem with concrete’s durability. She discovered long before it shows signs of crumbling, concrete develops tiny fissures. These fissures lead to corrosion of steel reinforcing rods and wire mesh by the elements and create larger cracks. If left unaddressed, these can lead to structural failure.
University research has found a way to address these fissures. Before the concrete is poured, they introduce fungi to the concrete mix. These fungal spores lie dormant in the dry concrete. As fissures develop, water and air seep in and combine with spores. The fungi grow and put off calcium carbonate. The calcium carbonate naturally fills the cracks and heals the concrete.
While the refining of the fungi-concrete mix is still ongoing, this is exciting news for builders and homeowners. It may mean no more patching roads and driveways.