Engineers at MIT have created a material that grows, strengthens and self-repairs by extracting carbon dioxide, through a process similar to the way that plants incorporate carbon dioxide into their growth tissues. It is a polymer material that, should there be an imperfection or superficial crack, would self-repair the affected area just with the presence of the surrounding air and solar light or some type of interior illumination.
This is a completely new concept in material science, that not only avoids the use of fossil fuels to create it, but it also has great benefits for the environment and climate, as it consumes carbon dioxide from the air.
The material starts as a liquid and begins to grow and group into a solid shape. It is a synthetic gel made from aminopropyl methacrylamide (APMA) and glucose oxidase with chloroplasts and it becomes stronger as it absorbs carbon. The chloroplasts in this case were extracted from spinach leaves and encrusted into the hydrogel, where they work to extract carbon from the air, converting it into a solid shape and using that to “construct” itself.
The team are optimising the material to produce it on a large scale, so that it may be incorporated one day soon into building and construction processes.