I don’t usually look to Metropolis magazine for respectable science. And I’m not starting now. But they have managed to find and bestow an award upon a bright young researcher–one Ginger Krieg Dosier of the UAE’s American University of Sharjah–who claims she can make bricks that work just as well as traditional bricks just by mixing a few cheap ingredients at room temperature: sand, a not-dangerous-to-people bacterial culture broth, a common salt, and urea which, as you might suppose, would in practice almost certainly come from animal urine:
“The process, known as microbial-induced calcite precipitation, or MICP, uses the microbes on sand to bind the grains together like glue with a chain of chemical reactions. The resulting mass resembles sandstone but, depending on how it’s made, can reproduce the strength of fired-clay brick or even marble. If Dosier’s biomanufactured masonry replaced each new brick on the planet, it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year.”
Then again, if Calla lilies replaced each new brick on the planet, it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year. But we’d also be living in a world without useful new bricks to build stuff with. It is probably reasonable to expect that Dosier’s “Bacteria Bricks” will fare better as a construction material than Calla lilies, but whether they are truly comparable to conventional masonry in mechanical properties, durability, and weather resistance still remains to be proved. Also, her bricks take weeks to harden, compared to traditionally-fired bricks which can be manufactured in two days.
Still, prototypes are never perfect, and a lot of persistence and creative thinking has already gone into Dosier’s research, and she deserves serious points for originality and effort. Here’s hoping she really can make her process work, in practice, well enough to live up to its rapidly-proliferating hype. [via Boing Boing]