What Is Self-Healing Concrete?

Concrete is the secret behind some of the world’s greatest architectural and engineering marvels. Although some concrete structures built millennia ago still stand today, concrete is prone to damage over time. It’s susceptible to cracks that can lead to major structural damage. Luckily, recent developments in the concrete industry are revolutionizing this ancient material.

In many ways, self-healing concrete is a material that you just have to see to believe. Here’s what you need to know about this innovative and useful material.

How can concrete be self-healing?

Self-healing concrete is a brand-new type of concrete that mimics the automatic healing of the body by secreting a healing agent that’s added to the concrete mix. Special healing agents that contain some adhesive liquids are released into the concrete mix, and the liquid inside them works to heal cracks as they start to form in the material over time. Healing the cracks not only improves the appearance of concrete structures, but also greatly improves their overall stability. While self-healing concrete is currently in a research and development stage, there are many applications that may be able to benefit from this modern technology.

What are the different varieties of self-healing concrete?

Self-healing concrete comes in many types due to the healing agents that are put in the mix. Healing agents include bacteria, sodium silicate and fungus. Here’s a brief guide to the different types of self-healing concrete:

  • Bacteria based: A special bacteria called bacillus is a healing agent when used in concrete. This bacterium thrives in the characteristically high alkaline conditions of concrete, and they can produce spores that can live several years without food or oxygen. When calcium lactate is added to the mixture, it creates a limestone-producing bacterium that works to repair cracks in the concrete.
  • Sodium silicate based: When a micro-encapsulated sodium silicate healing agent is added to concrete, it is released as cracks form over time. This inexpensive and effective material reacts with calcium hydroxide within the concrete, forming a gel that heals areas of cracking, resulting in lasting repairs that harden within a week.
  • Fungus based: Developed by engineers at New York’s Binghamton University, fungus-based self-healing concrete contains spores from Trichoderma reesei fungus. When added to a concrete mix, the spores stay dormant until cracks start to form. The spores are then activated to work their magic and fill these areas in, making cracks disappear almost instantly.

How can self-healing concrete change the future of engineering?

The construction and engineering opportunities that come from self-healing concrete are just beginning to be explored. Not only are there many structural benefits to discover due to this innovative technology, but self-healing concrete is also an excellent option for even the most basic of built features like sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Self-healing concrete has yet to achieve widespread use in the industry, but it’s expected to become a major game-changer in the near future.

Whether you’re a designer, engineer or architect, there are so many possibilities yet to be unlocked with self-healing concrete. Contact Emc2 Inc. to learn more about this innovative material.