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Seashell inspiration: Growing cement bricks with bacteria

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Imagine an 8-year-old girl studying a seashell on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama in 1985. It’s her first trip to the beach and it’s a moment that will set the course of her career:

“The 8-year-old version of myself was really looking at the beauty of the seashell, but also trying to understand how it was grown underwater,” Ginger Krieg Dosier told NewsHour. “It was so hard and durable. Very similar to your own bones. That was where the seed started.”

Today, as the CEO and cofounder of biotech startup bioMASON, Krieg Dosier is using bacteria to grow cement, an idea inspired by the shell’s calcium carbonate composition and refined after 111 failed experiments. It’s an important endeavor because ‘biocement’ creation doesn’t emit carbon dioxide, unlike standard cement production:

Cement-making accounts for about 5 percent of all industrial and fossil fuel emissions each year… more than all the emissions created by airplanes and ships.

bioMASON is currently testing the blocks strength, experimenting with aesthetic treatments, and scaling up production in its Raleigh, North Carolina warehouse. PBS NewsHour‘s Nsikan Akpan visited the company to see how the biobricks are made: These cement-making bacteria could build the cities of the future.

Related reading at SciAm: How are seashells created? Plus, from Columbia University: Emissions from the Cement Industry.

Watch these next: Biodegradable mushroom packaging, turning human waste into drinking water, and turning banana peels into a bioplastic.

via @MoNscience.

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