Bricks alive! Scientists create living concrete

Wil Srubar, left, a structural engineer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, holding a brick of building matter made from cyanobacteria and other materials. / Credit CU Boulder College of Engineering & Applied Science. / The New York Times

“A Frankenstein material” is teeming with — and ultimately made by — photosynthetic microbes. And it can reproduce.

By Amos Zeeberg | The New York Times

For centuries, builders have been making concrete roughly the same way: by mixing hard materials like sand with various binders, and hoping it stays fixed and rigid for a long time to come.

Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has created a rather different kind of concrete — one that is alive and can even reproduce.

Minerals in the new material are deposited not by chemistry but by cyanobacteria, a common class of microbes that capture energy through photosynthesis. The photosynthetic process absorbs carbon dioxide, in stark contrast to the production of regular concrete, which spews huge amounts of that greenhouse gas.

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