Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gengineered concrete-patching bacteria: BacillaFilla

If only we had this stuff in the 70's to patch the craks in the old schoolyards and drainage ditches we used to skate.

"BacillaFilla," is the pet-name given by University of Newcastle researchers to a gengineered bacterium based on Bacillus subtilis that has been modified to fill and bond cracks in cement caused by earthquakes and other violence. The bacteria burrow into the concrete until they have filled all its cracks, then they politely turn into calcium carbonate and die.
The researchers have tweaked it's genetic properties such that it only begins to germinate when it comes in contact with the highly-specific pH of concrete. Once the cells germinate, they are programmed to crawl as deep as they can into cracks in the concrete, where quorum sensing lets them know when enough bacteria have accumulated.
That accumulation lets the bacteria know they've reached the deepest part of the crack, at which point the cells begin to develop into bacterial filaments, cells that produce calcium carbonate, and cells that secrete a kind of bacterial glue that binds everything together. Once hardened, the bacteria is essentially as strong as the concrete itself, restoring structural strength and adding life to the surrounding concrete.

The bacteria also contains a self-destruct gene that keeps it from wildly proliferating away from its concrete target, because a runaway patch of bacterial concrete that continued to grow despite all efforts to stop it would be somewhat annoying
from via BoingBoing

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