Murdoch University researchers have been able, with the help of added microorganisms, to turn sand into stone rapidly.
There was PHd thesis work in 1999-2002
* This bacterium uses an enzyme to make its surroundings less acidic, which is a good environment for them to grow”, said Ms Whiffin. The by-product of this reaction is calcium carbonate, or limestone
* Ms Whiffin believes her biotechnology work will have many applications, not only for restoring historical buildings, but also mine shafts and other industrial structures.
* In 2002, a Dutch company responded to Ms Whiffin’s website and shipped sand samples from Holland for testing.
* They were impressed by the capability of the bacteria to cement sand samples from Dutch dykes that protect the land from rising sea levels.
* a similar technique is being used to clean up strontium spills in the United States at the moment.
The biggest block they have made as of 2009 was in a shipping container, just to prove that it can not only work in the laboratory
A major practical application for the biocementation technique will be in mining. It doesn’t need oxygenation. In theory we could solidify the sea bed before drilling for oil. We could also drill tunnels in the sand, we could make the sand harder so it doesn’t cave in.
The PHd thesis (Microbial CaCO3 precipitation for the production of biocement, Victoria Whiffin) was completed in 2004
After biocementation treatment, Koolschijn sand indicated a shear strength of 1.8 MPa and a stiffness of 250 MPa, which represents an 8-fold and 3-fold respective improvement in strength compared to unconsolidated sand. Significantly lower strength improvements were observed in sand mixed with peat.
There have been design competition wins in 2008 and 2010 for using this for barriers in the desert and for roads
The construction industry is slow to adopt new technology, so this will need to penetrate some unique niches where there is no established or adequate alternative. The mining and dike applications look to be first and perhaps some desert experiments in Dubai and the UAE where they are already looking at creating artificial water tables on a large scale (waterproof sand).
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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