Concrete is not indestructible. It cracks and crumbles with time. Tiny cracks start to appear due to heavy loads and if these cracks are not identified and treated in time, they propagate and cause structures such as bridges to collapse. To avoid these failures, researchers have been carrying out experiments on different types of self-healing concrete.
One such experiment has been utilizing fungus to make self-healing concrete. This was inspired by the human body’s ability to heal itself and was created by Congrui Jin, Guangwen Zhou and David Davies from New York’s Binghamton University, along with Ning Zhang from Rutgers University. What it does is incorporates spores of the fungus Trichoderma Reesei, along with nutrients. These are placed in the concrete matrix as it is being mixed.
You don’t have to worry about fungus sprouting out of the concrete slabs. Once the concrete has been hardened, the spores become dormant as they do not get any water or oxygen. However, as soon as the tiniest of cracks appear, the spores germinate, grow and precipitate calcium carbonate. This provides a perfect sealing for the cracks. The spores go dormant once again when the crack is filled.
“When the cracks are completely filled and ultimately no more water or oxygen can enter inside, the fungi will again form spores,” says assistant professor Jin. “As the environmental conditions become favourable in later stages, the spores could be wakened again.”
This concrete is still in the development phase and has not made its way to the market just yet. But, if it does prove to be successful, it will be a huge step in the right direction and will greatly increase the lifetime of concrete.
Check out the video below for more details: