A Constructive Concept: Growing Germs to Wire the Desert

The search for sustainable building materials has led us through all kinds of natural and man-made substances, from wood to concrete to hemp and bamboo. But a new kind of proposed building material could beat the green power of all of these, and it may soon help to bring grid electricity to the deserts of the United Arab Emirates.

(all images via: Evolo)

Ginger Krieg Dosier is an assistant professor of architecture at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE. Her concept for a new, green building material is not terribly far-removed from existing materials, but it could be a simple way to build transmission towers in the desert without relying on materials that have to be transported for long distances.

The method proposed by Dosier is similar to one that has recently been proposed by other architects and materials scientists: use a naturally-occurring bacteria called Sporosarcina Pastuerii to create a sort of bio-cement. The common soil bacteria bonds with sand to create a strong, sustainable natural concrete material. But Dosier wants to take the concept one step further and incorporate 3D printing.

In Dosier’s method, the bacteria would be grown in a lab and then fed into a 3D printer where it would bind sand together into blocks of bio-cement. The bacteria/sand combination would take the place of the resin/lasers and other methods of joining layer upon layer of material until a desired shape is achieved. The bricks could be made into any desired size, shape and thickness depending on the needs of the specific tower. The bricks would completely harden within two weeks, a process which is sped by the hot, dry desert air. The blocks could be built offsite and inexpensively transported to the building site where they would be used to create load-bearing transmission towers to bring electricity to the remotest desert locations.

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