Smart materials: Concrete that can patch itself up

Imagine concrete bridges that can heal cracks without human intervention. This is just one application for a category of smart materials that change and adapt to their environment.

But they might also need regulation to avoid unintended consequences, says the document from the Royal Society in the United Kingdom.

Some “animate” materials are already here: concrete that can patch itself up has made it into commercial products.

There are two key approaches for self-healing concrete. One uses capsules embedded in the concrete that crack open in response to damage. They release a substance based on bitumen that mineralizes when exposed to air and water, filling the damaged area.

The other concept also uses capsules, but filled with bacteria. When the concrete cracks, the capsules release the bugs which produce the mineral calcite to heal the damage.

The technology has already been trialled on roads in the UK.

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