When you hear the phrase self-healing, you might conjure up images of self-help books and circles of people chanting. So what does it mean if you add that phrase to concrete?

With a purported 45% of the annual construction budget being allocated to the maintenance of buildings in some 1st world countries, it is not surprising that there is substantial and radical research being done into driving these costs down.

Self Healing Research

Prof. Kevin Paine, Professor of Infrastructure Materials, Department Architecture and Civil Engineering, is taking the lead in researching the area of self-healing concrete. Research and experimentation have shown cracks being “self-filled” with calcium carbonate created by having bacteria living in the concrete. This fascinating solution starts with bacterial spores being added to the concrete mix and, cleverly, their meal pack is also mixed in, such as yeast extract.

When a crack opens in the concrete, the bacteria are released into water and oxygen, which activates feeding, multiplying, and metabolic activity, thus resulting in limestone being created and filling up the crack.

Innovative solutions usually require thinking outside of the box, and the origin of this involved a coming together of civil engineer and microbiologist minds. It also attracted the interest of researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge universities who were undertaking concrete self-healing research such as vascular systems.

This formidable pioneering group attracted grant funding to continue research, and then the battles started. Every step was virgin knowledge as nothing like this had been done before, and the steps continue. “Small cracks will be repaired within about 14 days,” says Prof Paine.

The Future Of This Cement Mix

Their challenge now is getting this solution to work in a wide array of geographical locations, including very low temperatures.

The current solution performs very well when in the temperature region of 20°C or higher with accompanying wet conditions. This limits its current usability to specific geographic locations, which certainly doesn’t include the town where the University is located, Bath. The new samples are being tested in low-temperature environments such as fridges, and we look forward to seeing the results from those tests.

At Batchcrete, we find groundbreaking news like this to be fascinating. Finding ways for concrete to serve end-users better is beneficial for every role player in this industry, so we’ll be keeping an eye on this research development.

When you are ready with your latest innovative project, our highly experienced team of professionals can guide you on the best solution, including cement mixers, mixing plants, and batching plants. Let us know about innovative projects you are working on, and we’d love to hear about them!