The research team are developing ‘self-healing’ concrete and a repair mortar which can be used on existing buildings.
Dr Alan Richardson, a Senior Lecturer in Construction in the School of the Built and Natural Environment, is using a ground-borne bacteria – bacilli megaterium – to create calcite, a crystalline form of natural calcium carbonate.
This can then be used to block the concrete’s pores, keeping out water and other damaging substances to prolong the life of a building.
The bacteria is grown on a nutrient broth of yeast, minerals and urea and is then added to the concrete.
With its food source in the concrete, the bacteria breeds and spreads, acting as a filler to seal the cracks and prevent further deterioration.
Concrete cancer is caused by the swelling and breaking of concrete and is estimated to cost billions of pounds worth of damage to buildings.
Dr Richardson said: “This project is hugely exciting. The potential is there to have a building that can look after itself.”