The new material could extend the life of a structure from 20 to 80 years
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Spotted: Concrete is used in almost every kind of structure or construction project. Although strong, it is also a very brittle material, making it prone to crack under any kind of stress, from weather and design flaws to reactions to other substances such as road salt and water. Researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts have created a new version of concrete that captures airborne carbon dioxide in order to repair cracks both small and large.
Taking inspiration from the human body, the team added an enzyme that is found in red blood cells to dry concrete powder. Called carbonic anhydrase (CA), the enzyme remains dormant until it interacts with carbon dioxide. A crack of any size sets off the chemical reaction that forms calcium carbonate crystals, a substance very similar to that of traditional concrete.
The process takes only 24 hours, which is significantly faster than other self-healing concretes. The speed is important because the faster a new crack is repaired, the longer a structure can operate at high quality. The scientists think that this composite material could extend the life of a typical construction project from 20 years to close to 80.
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Written by: Keely Khoury