Future buildings may be teeming with bacteria, with scientists developing a hybrid construction material, made of microbes, that may be capable of repairing itself or even pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.

Wil Srubar, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, headed up an interdisciplinary team that used bacteria to create a durable “living” building material that would, among other tricks, be able to heal its own cracks. That would be an especially valuable asset in extreme conditions or military structures, the scientists say, as bricks made from the material could fix themselves after natural disasters or damage from enemy fire.

“We believe this material is particularly suitable in resource-scarce environments, such as deserts or the Arctic, even human settlements on other planets,” Srubar, who founded a living-materials lab at the university that takes inspiration from nature, told me. “The sky is the limit, really, for creative applications of the technology.”

Living bricks could, for example, change color to indicate the presence of dangerous toxins, and potentially suck them up.


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