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Engineering microbial-induced carbonate precipitation

Engineering microbial-induced carbonate precipitation

Ageing infrastructure is an increasing economic and environmental problem. Concrete is costly to produce and to repair and maintain. But it can be self-healing, as a result of bacterial metabolic activity.

Project leader

Dr Dana Ofiteru

Dr Enrico Masoero

Dates

2019-2022

Project staff

Dr Denis Taniguchi

Manpreet Bagga

Sponsors

EPSRC

Partners

University of Bath

Cardiff University

Northumbrian Water Ltd

Description

We are investigating ways of predicting the most promising combinations of bacteria and concrete.

The cost of producing one cubic metre of concrete varies between £45 and £55. The cost of repair and maintenance of one cubic metre is around £100. Production of cement generates 5 to 8% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

Counteracting the degradation of concrete would lower the need for new materials. This would reduce consumption of resources and greenhouse gas emission.

Engineers have proposed a revolutionary solution inspired by nature. Self-healing materials can self-repair as a result of the metabolic activity of bacteria. The main mechanism of concrete healing is microbial-induced precipitation of calcium carbonate. Currently, we identify a few species of bacteria that work for limited sets of concretes and environments. We then optimise their MICP performance incrementally by experiments. But the solutions don’t transfer easily to new applications. We have to carry out new experiments which are costly.

In this research, we will provide a new theoretical basis to predict the most promising combinations of bacteria and concrete. We will base these predictions on the application-specific chemical compositions of the concrete. This will establish a new paradigm for the digital design of concrete-bacteria systems. It will enable technology transfer across the constructions sector.