Self-Repairing Concrete: Coming Soon to a Construction Site Near You

Concrete is one of the most versatile materials in the modern construction field. Sustainable and cost-effective, concrete can be imbued with stunning colors to allow its use in a wide range of interior and exterior applications. The development of self-healing concrete by a team of researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will soon revolutionize the concrete industry once again. This innovative new material will provide added options for your local Houston concrete contractor in managing your construction projects for greater durability and longevity.

Bacteria Hold the Key to Longer-Lasting Concrete

The new concrete formulation has been dubbed bioconcrete by its creator, Dr. Henk Jonkers, who has been working on this project since 2006.

  • In his role as a lead researcher and microbiologist with the Materials & Environment Research Group, Jonkers examined the way in which the human body heals itself after a bone fracture.
  • He then tested a variety of bacteria to determine if these microorganisms could serve the same purpose in concrete walls and structures.
  • After extensive examination of the available options, the bacteria were selected from among strains that grow naturally in highly alkaline environments. These bacteria can survive in a dormant state for many years.
  • The bacteria were then enclosed in biodegradable containers that break down upon contact with water.
  • When water seeps into cracks in concrete, it releases the bacteria and a supply of calcium lactate food to encourage rapid growth.
  • The bacteria fill the gaps in the concrete to eliminate cracks and reinforce the strength of the structure.

The applications of this new concrete formulation in the Texas construction industry are widespread and will make a major impact on the way building projects are managed in the future.

Other Methods Are Being Explored

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Michigan are developing alternative methods for creating self-repairing concrete formulations:

  • The MIT project is using polymers to create a sunlight-activated system of microcapsules throughout the concrete mix. These polymers would expand when exposed to light to repair any cracks or gaps in the concrete mix.
  • Victor Li at the University of Michigan is currently developing concrete infused with microfibers that expand when cracks or bends occur, reinforcing the structural strength of these materials for longer life and greater functionality.

A joint effort by researchers at Cardiff University, the University of Cambridge and the University of Bath in the United Kingdom is also examining the use of bacteria to mend concrete automatically in the presence of water.

Practical Applications for Self-Repairing Concrete

When self-healing concrete formulations are made available for general use, they will change the way many modern construction firms do business and will provide major benefits for their clients:

  • In the near future, your Houston paving contractor may use self-healing concrete mixtures to reduce or eliminate potholes and cracks in parking lots and roadways. This could potentially prevent a significant amount of damage to vehicles and could even reduce the number of injury accidents on streets and roadways.
  • Property owners can see significant benefits by working with a Houston foundation contractor who uses these new self-healing concrete formulations. Rather than experiencing cracks that widen and become worse over time, self-repairing concrete mixtures can potentially provide greater longevity for foundations, allowing homeowners and property managers to enjoy greater peace of mind and added value for their Houston buildings.

Self-repairing concrete will also allow greater structural stability for all types of construction projects, ensuring the greatest return on initial investment for real estate investors and property owners.

While cost concerns are currently limiting the practical use of self-healing concrete, the environmental and safety benefits are expected to spur added research into ways to reduce the overall expense associated with these new technologies. This will allow greater availability of this new type of concrete for residents and commercial applications in Houston and the entire state of Texas.