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Sustainable bricks grown from bacteria, sand, and urine

Posting in Architecture

An American architecture professor has figured out how to grow bricks from bacteria, sand, and pee. The recipe for bacteria-based brick seems eco-friendly enough, but it might be difficult to actually manufacture.

Some 1.23 trillion bricks are made every year — so brick making has a bigger carbon footprint than the entire airline industry. Traditionally, bricks are made by hand after clay is heated at high temperatures in coal-ovens — each brick usually produces 1.3 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Ginger Krieg Dosier discovered how to grow bricks at room temperature. She has developed a way to create eco-friendly bricks using calcium chloride, bacteria, sand, and urea.

Doisier uses a process called microbial-induced calcite precipitation, or MICP, to bind the sand particles together with bacteria. Then as Fast Company describes, the bricks are built layer-by-layer like lasagna.

“We’re running out of all of our energy sources,” [Dosier] told Metropolis Magazine. “Four hundred trees are burned to make 25,000 bricks. It’s a consumption issue, and honestly, it’s starting to scare me.”

So far Dosier, an architecture professor at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, has created "Lego-sized" bricks, Popular Science reports. However, if Dosier's "ecobricks" are used instead of the traditional ones, they could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year.

Dosier's brick making nabbed Metropolis Magazine's 2010 Next Generation award. According to Metropolis Magazine, the recipe for building a bacteria-based brick is:

  1. Place the "formwork" in the sand.
  2. Fill it up.
  3. Level.
  4. Mix up the bacteria solution.
  5. Pour the bacteria solution over the sand.
  6. Wait. Allow the solution to saturate.
  7. Pour the glue-like solution over the sand to bind the particles together.
  8. Again, be patient. Let it saturate.
  9. Let the brick get hard.
  10. Remove the "formwork".
  11. Allow the brick to get harder.
  12. Solid. The bio brick should be good to go.

To make the bricks on a large scale, Dosier needs to figure out how to print them in 3D. Besides the manufacturing issue, Tree Hugger points out a potential environmental hurdle to overcome: The process eventually produces nitrates, a pollutant that could leak into the nearby groundwater supply.

via Popular Science

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech,, and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure