Researchers have successfully created a self-healing concrete that can repair its own cracks! The concept behind the self-healing concrete is that an intervention needs to be staged before water gets in tiny cracks and causes the rupture to spread. The special concrete makes use of an enzyme found in human blood, as New Atlas details:
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The team put the CA enzyme to use by adding it to concrete powder before the material is mixed and poured. When a small crack forms in the concrete, the enzyme interacts with CO2 in the air to produce calcium carbonate crystals, which mimic the characteristics of concrete and promptly fill in the crack.
Through their testing, the scientists demonstrated their doped concrete can repair its own millimeter-scale cracks within 24 hours. The team says this is a marked improvement on some previous technologies that have used bacteria to self-heal, which are more expensive and can take up to a month to heal even far smaller cracks.
While the amount of CO2 the concrete gobbles up is likely to be negligible in thegrand scheme of things, the real environmental potential of the material lies in its potential longevity. Rahbar predicts that this type of self-healing technology could extend the life of a structure from 20 years to 80 years, which reduces the need to produce replacement concrete in what is a notoriously carbon-intensive process.
“Healing traditional concrete that’s already in use is critically beneficial, too, and will help reduce the need to produce and ship additional concrete, which has a huge environmental impact,” says Rahbar.
Image credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute