A team of researchers at the University of Colorado have engineered a “living building material,” that’s both made out of bacteria and is recyclable. It begs to the question: would you live in a house that’s alive, green and made out of bacteria?

The study, which was first reported by The New York Times, found that three generations of living building materials (LBMs) were created from one parent generation. The material was created from cyanobacteria, which absorbs carbon dioxide. The traditional process of creating concrete emits significant amounts of it, according to The New York Times. 

“Engineered LBMs use biology to confer multiple functionalities to materials for the built environment,” a summary of the study reads. “Microorganisms can be leveraged for multiple purposes in the design of LBMs, including increasing the rate of manufacturing, imparting mechanical benefit, and sustaining biological function.”

The LBMs — which are greenish in color — have a number of other advantages over traditional concrete, according to The Times report. For one, most concrete requires virgin sand, the supply of which is dwindling worldwide because of the demand for concrete.

“We’re not pigeonholed into using some particular kind of sand,” Dr. Wil Srubar, one of the study’s authors told the New York Times. “We could use waste materials like ground glass or recycled concrete.”

The LBMs could also someday be the material that leads to the first settlement on Mars, since it could theoretically hold up better to structural damage – and maybe respond in a way that reveals that damage – and allow for building in the driest climates.

And of course, it would be significantly more arduous to bring building materials to Mars, rather than grow it there, Srubar told The Times. 

Email Patrick Kearns

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