Octopuses and Concrete:
Not So Different, After All

Curly octopus legs lay on concrete background with Black Diamond Paving logo in foreground

The world of concrete innovations often seems to take on a surreal ingenuity. Take for example, the glowing concrete we wrote about a few months ago which played on what could best be described as lighting bug technology. Now, to add to the list, we introduce the concept of Bio-Concrete with self healing capabilities.

Concrete has long been lauded as a popular material due to its density and strength, as well as its unique abilities to be formed and reinforced. The biggest downfall of concrete has always been degradation due to its number one enemy, water. Enter: a way to keep the water out.

The original inspiration for self-healing concrete came to Dutch researcher and microbiologist, Hendrik Jonkers through his early career work in marine biology, specifically, the ability for octopuses and other marine life to self-heal and regenerate.

The expansion of that theme included him identifying a unique bacteria that withstands dry and alkaline environments and can remain happily dormant. This bacteria is encapsulated within 2-4mm wide clay pellets and is integrated into the concrete mix.

Additionally, a nourishing combination of nitrogen and phosphates is similarly encapsulated and incorporated in the mix. Then, their high-tech, encapsulated tiny selves just hang out and wait for things to start to crack. Because, no matter how perfect the mix, concrete eventually begins to open up with little cracks. And all those little cracks allow moisture to seep in.

When the moisture begins to permeate the structure, the capsules degrade, allowing the bacteria and the nourishing cocktail to mix. Upon mixing, it begins to transform into a limestone type material as it forms, takes in the moisture, and fills in the crack.

This magical little process takes about three weeks and can be identified across the surface as a small line or puddle-shaped color variation. As cracks form across the surface the process is repeated, sealing out the moisture and providing an impervious surface once again.

The impact of this technology, at once so complex and yet so simple, is one that will continue to transform the way the world builds and maintains infrastructure such as buildings, bridges, roadways, and dams. Also in development by Jonkers are repair mortars and liquid repair applications for this technology.

As always, we love to see how our world continues to evolve and change. In the meantime we will pair the new and exciting with our tried and true best practices when it comes to process and customer service. You can’t go wrong with that combo!