Scientists created carbon-sucking 'Frankenstein' bricks using microbes. The material can spawn its own babies.

Business Insider | 1/17/2020 | Aria Bendix
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Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have created a building material that utilizes live microbes.

The material can regenerate to form three generations of offspring.

Bricks - Building - Material - Settlement - Mars

This could make the bricks an ideal building material for a settlement on Mars.

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Engineers - University - Colorado - Boulder - Experiment

Engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder recently conducted an experiment that sounds almost like a kids' science project: They added colonies of green bacteria to a mix of sand and grocery-store gelatin.

The result, it turns out, is a novel building material that's a living, breathing organism. It can spawn its own babies.

Microbes - Brick - Cyanobacteria - Photosynthesis - Carbon

The microbes in the brick are cyanobacteria, which perform photosynthesis to grow, taking in carbon dioxide. They produce a powdery substance called calcium carbonate — the main ingredient in cement — which toughens the material.

"It's a lot like making rice crispy treats, where you toughen the marshmallow by adding little bits of hard particles," Wil Srubar, a structural engineer who led the project, told CU Boulder Today. "You can step on it, and it won't break."

Bacteria - Sand - Gelatin - Particles - Spring

Adding live bacteria also makes the dead sand and gelatin particles seem to spring to life. The bacteria colonies grow at an exponential rate, so bricks produce their own offspring after they're cut in half. Each half yields two spawn for up to three generations, meaning a single brick can turn into eight.

'A Frankenstein material'

Gelatin - Mixture - Sand - Structure - Brick

The gelatin in the mixture helps glue the sand particles together, creating a stable structure for the brick. Adding the bacteria to that combination makes the material as tough as the mortar used hold brick and stone together in...
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