Cement and concrete building materials are ubiquitous in the built environment but require high energy, time, labor, and material resources to manufacture. Cement manufacturing necessitates high temperature processing, and is associated with 5-9 percent of anthropogenic carbon emissions. Concrete, which includes cement and fine and coarse aggregates, requires increasingly scarce materials. Most cement and concrete building materials cannot be reused or recycled. In this Future Manufacturing Seed Grant (FMSG) project, the investigators will develop reusable and recyclable modular building materials that are produced by microorganisms via a processes known as biomineralization and biocementation. Graduate and undergraduate students will participate in this project and gai interdisciplinary training in ecomanufacturing, civil engineering, material science and microbiology. High school teachers will also be engaged in the research project and will develop classroom activities based on biocemetation. K-12 classroom materials will be widely disseminated. In addition, instructional materials in ecomanufacturing will be developed and disseminated to a local community college.
The investigators will pursue the first steps in a new paradigm for the eco-manufacturing of building and infrastructure materials that overcomes the high material, time, energy, and labor needs of traditional concrete manufacturing. They will use microbes to construct, reversibly interlock (enabling re-use), break down and recycle modular building materials (MBMs). These MBMs could be assembled to build load-bearing structures and infrastructure. When the structures are no longer wanted, the MBMs could either be separated and then interlocked again in a different structure or broken down and recycled for the next generation of MBMs. In this Seed Grant, the investigators will explore four primary challenges to identify the potential for microbes in eco-manufacturing building materials: (1) Constructing MBMs using fungi and/or bacteria, (2) Reversibly interlocking the MBMs using biomineral glues, (3) Breaking down the MBMs to their components using fungal metabolisms, and (4) Recycling the components into new MBMs.
This project is jointly funded by the Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Division of the Engineering Directorate, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and the Biological Sciences Directorate.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.