IN: Inspiration

A Fungal Future

A new a fungus-based concrete could heal its own cracks.

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Imagine your house was a living organism. Well, that could soon be a reality, as researchers in the USA have begun testing a new concrete, which (theoretically) heals its own cracks, the way cracked bones and bruises heal themselves.

Researchers at Binghamtom University in New York are en route to developing a new fungus-based concrete mix that reacts and heals when cracks form. The research is currently in the development stage, but Congrui Jin, head researcher and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, claims it could be groundbreaking.

“Concrete structures, in particular, suffer from serious deterioration,” writes Jin. “We propose including fungal spores, together with nutrients, during the initial mixing process when building a new concrete structure. When the inevitable cracking occurs and water finds its way in, the dormant fungal spores will germinate.”

PPC Imaginarium
Assistant professor Congrui Jin (center) with two Binghamton University graduate students from the Mechanical Engineering Department. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

One of the big risks that affect concrete is the appearance of small cracks in the material that allow air, gasses and water to infiltrate it. A slight crack can allow moisture to seep in and corrode the steel reinforcement, thus threatening its structural integrity. Dereliction is a big problem throughout the USA, Jin argues, and alternatives to the costly process of repair and maintenance are thus essential. 

In the new option, fungal spores would lay dormant, waiting for cracks to appear and let water and air into the material. Water and air kick-start the germination, which in turn yields calcium carbonate crystals. More and more crystals fill the cracks until the cracks themselves close completely. When this happens, the fungi turns back into spores, which then wait for the process to start over.

Jin and his team searched rigorously for a fungus whose biology would make the idea a reality. They settled on the species Trichoderma reesei. T. reesei, as it is known, is both non-pathogenic and eco-friendly.

 

Read the full story by Jin here: https://bit.ly/2nccczv

 

 

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