Let the Healing Begin: A New Take on Concrete

concrete crack

Two things are certain about concrete: it is going to harden and it is going to eventually crack. Although concrete has been a common building material since Roman times, solutions to its most common problems have been elusive, but an answer is on the horizon.

Cracking and crumbling concrete driveways, sidewalks, or foundations are an unwelcome sight. Using rebar helps keep the cracks small, but cannot prevent them completely. At best, damaged concrete is simply ugly. At worst, cracks in foundations or slabs can allow water to access your home, basement, or crawl space and cause serious damage. A qualified contractor can repair or replace the concrete, but what if cracked concrete could heal itself?

Self-Healing Concrete? Too Good to Be True?

Professor Henk Jonkers from Delft University of Technology may have found a way to create concrete that can repair itself as necessary. The Dutch professor created a compound consisting of concrete, a bacteria that produces limestone, and calcium lactate to feed the bacteria. This mixture creates ordinary looking concrete that is far from average.

The bacteria can lie dormant for up to 200 years in the hardened concrete. When a fissure occurs, exposure to air and moisture will awaken the bacteria who will then feed on the calcium lactate and produce calcite. The calcite will fill the cracks, thus healing the concrete without human intervention.

This amazing product is still in development. At $33 to $44 per square meter, it is still too expensive for widespread use, but it holds great promise for the future of construction. Jonkers is working on lowering the overall cost by substituting a less expensive food for the bacteria than calcium lactate.

Giving due credit to Jonkers, the idea of self-healing concrete is not entirely new. Very old concrete sometimes shows evidence of a crystalline structure in the cracks. Speculation has been that the work of rainwater and chemicals within the concrete caused the spontaneous filling of the fissures. Jonkers’ product would make this natural self-healing standard rather than happenstance.

As an industry leader, Live Oak Contracting prides itself on exploring the latest technologies and developments in the construction industry. Call us today to learn more about how our expertise can benefit your next project.

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