Technology

Pentagon working on living biological materials

Combine the benefits of proven construction materials with living organisms: this is the goal of a research project of the US Agency DARPA. This could be repaired roofs even, window automatically sealed against rain and spare parts grow next door in the garden.

With odds and ends you never gave up at DARPA. It’s in their nature, because that was founded “Defense Advanced Research project agency” in the United States, after the Soviets had shot their first “Sputnik” in the universe. A such disaster in the technological race between East and West should never be, decided in Washington.

That’s why the authority gets billions every year

Primarily talking about military, but civilian benefit strengthens the raison d ‘ ĂȘtre of course, and therefore the DARPA keeps its significant involvement in the development of the navigation system GPS upload. Currently run about 250 projects of various kinds: defense technologies against fighter drones to the development of proteins that are supposed to help the targeted application of drugs in the body.

Control of growth and form needed

The latest project, however, is about architecture. The researchers want to combine traditional building materials with living, biological elements. Materials such as concrete and steel were expensive and difficult to transport, would have a limited lifetime and could not respond to changes in their vicinity, says DARPA. “Living biological materials” would, however, have many advantages: “They grow where they are needed, repair itself and respond to their environment.”

Is also one of the recent DARPA developments: the robot ship Actuv. It can hunt autonomously enemy U-boats.

The Authority cites as examples of skin, bones, tree bark or coral. The problem was only that “scientists and engineers today still not in the position are to check the size and shape of these materials in a simple manner, so that they could be useful for building”. So this is exactly the objective of the new DARPA project “engineered living material” (ELM).

If the road adapts dynamically.

It is unclear what methods the necessary control can be achieved. But she should go to a kind of genetic programming. The novel materials that would arise should be used not only in buildings but also in roads and bridges. So could the infrastructure then “dynamic conditions in the environment adapt to” specifically what that means.

Project Manager Justin Gallivan is anyway, convinced of the enormous opportunities: “Imagine, we supply not a finished materials to the construction site, but precursor, which grow locally and using local resources and then also still itself can heal damage!”

Micro-organisms bake bricks

Such possibilities were indeed revolutionary. However, the idea to use living organisms in the production of building materials, is not entirely new.

bio-brick
At the bioMason brick factory, brick can be produced weekly 1500. Photo: bioMason

Dutch researchers have developed a concrete in which bacteria can close any cracks, and a US startup has presented several months ago bricks which must be baked with high energy expenditure, but are held together by micro-organisms.