LOCATION: North Carolina, USA

SUMMARY: bioMason “grows” durable bricks comparable in strength to calcite-cemented sandstone by using biomass, aggregate, nutrients, minerals, and bacteria to produce a natural bio-cement in less than three days in ambient temperatures, a process similar to how corals form through bio-mineralization/calcium carbonate fixation. The nutrients and minerals required are globally abundant renewable resources but may be also extracted from industrial waste streams, contributing to remediation efforts and making this mode of brick production even more ecologically beneficial. This highly promising project is an inspiring exemplar of a biomimetic strategy that finds non-polluting, benign solutions to human needs by emulating natural processes.

PROBLEM SPACE: “It is estimated that over 85% of global construction uses masonry. Over 1.23 Trillion clay bricks are manufactured every year, emitting over 800 million tons of CO2 due to the fuel used in the firing process. Just from the coal consumed, the brick industry in the top five producing countries emits 1.2% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Collectively, the production of 3 billion tons of cement produced in 2009 accounted for 5% of total global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Black carbon and suspended particulate matter (SPAM) are the second-largest contributors to global warming after CO2. More than 2.4 million premature deaths can be attributed to black carbon every year.
The cement industry is one of the most carbon intensive industries due in large part to the thermal energy required to produce clinker; the key component of cement. The world produced 3 billion metric tons in 2009, emitting more than 2.4 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Alternative fuel sources for manufacturing both clay bricks and cement, are not enough. Measures have been explored, but still rely upon intensive demands for energy. These aging industries need a new method for making cements and binders similar to coral biomineralization.”

SOLUTION: “bioMASON bricks are composed of four primary materials: biomass, aggregate, nutrients and minerals. The biomass consists of safe, natural bacteria, which “grows””— cement between grains of loose aggregate. Required nutrients and minerals are globally abundant renewable resources; but may be also extracted from industrial waste streams, contributing to remediation efforts. Wastewater can be used in the production process, saving potable water. Bacteria are added to aggregate in brick forms, and a solution containing a nitrogen source, nutrients and calcium is fed to the bricks, similar to agricultural hydroponics. The bacteria use the nitrogen source and nutrients as a source of energy, producing an environment for local calcium carbonate production. The bacterium act as nucleation sites, and mineral growth coats the aggregate grains and fills the void gaps with biocement. The resulting material exhibits physical strength properties similar to natural, calcite-cemented sandstone. This form of biocementation takes less than a few days to complete, and strength can be increased with additional time.”

CONTACT: [email protected]