Gallery: Researcher Grows Durable “Bio Bricks” From Sand, Bacteria, and...

 

Assistant architecture professor Ginger Krieg Dosier recently unveiled a new breed of biologically “grown” bricks that are durable, sustainably manufactured, and easily produced from readily available materials. Called “Better Bricks,” the building material can be “grown” from sand, common bacteria, calcium chloride, and urea (yes, the stuff in your pee) instead of being baked, which consumes a ton of energy. The concept, which recently won Metropolis Mag‘s 2010 Next Generation design competition, may seem simple, but it has the potential to have a global impact when you consider that producing the 1.23 trillion bricks manufactured per year right now creates more pollution than all the airplanes in the world!

Better Bricks were conceived by Ginger Krieg Dosier, an assistant architecture professor, in a lab at the American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, as a solution to the enormous environmental impact of producing all of the bricks the world needs each year. “We’re running out of all of our energy sources,” said Dosier in a March phone interview. “Four hundred trees are burned to make 25,000 bricks. It’s a consumption issue, and honestly, it’s starting to scare me.”

The process behind the innovative new brick is known as microbial-induced calcite precipitation, or MICP, and utilizes microbes on sand to “glue” the grains together using a chain of chemical reactions. And the end product is fairly strong – according to Metropolis Mag, it resembles sandstone but can be as strong as fired-clay brick or even marble depending on how it is made.

Congratulations to Ms. Dosier and the Better Brick. When it comes to designing a solution that may seem basic and small but has a far-reaching positive global impact, this brick definitely ticks all of the boxes. To put the numbers into perspective, if the Better Brick replaced each new brick on Earth, it would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 800 million tons a year!

+ Metropolis Mag 2010 Next Generation Design Competition

Photos by Siddharth Siva

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10 Comments

  1. John Perry June 4, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    So tell us more, things like cost per brick and time required to produce compared to clay brick. Since she is using urea in the compound does the finished product have a smell? If soaked by a hard rain does it smell? Will the bacteria grow the brick together or will it need mortar to hold it together when building?
    Can this process be combined with a 3D printer to build walls?

  2. camackenzie November 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    What occurs to me is…Why bother with bricks? Bricks still need mortar to hold them together. Why not just build wall forms–reusable, for several similar buildings–fill them with sand, and add the bacterial glop. Voila! monolithic walls. You could even put in steel (or fiberglass, or whatever) reinforcement, electrical wiring or conduits, plumbing, etc., before hardening the walls.

  3. Archaraf May 24, 2013 at 7:12 am

    revolutionary idea!!

  4. betterways April 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    ^ And do we need to make bricks with this method? What about pavements? Does it have to be done in a controlled environment? Or could we do something like spread out sand in place and add the microbes and urea and let it bind in place?

  5. sunil_libral December 8, 2010 at 3:17 am

    i have some 50 lakhs requirment of bricks in road construction this year,in some road sites there is availability of local fine sand,will this fine sand be suitable in the MICP method.

  6. DanFegan August 6, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Where are they obtaining this urea from? Animals? Sorry, but I can’t fathom the idea of a non-vegan BRICK!

  7. dpaige May 20, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Looks like a potentially great product. I saw other comments (pro & con) on ecogeek. Did Professor Krieg Dosier come across this using biomimicry? or just studying natural materials. There may be solutions to the questions raised here and on ecogeek by studying nature more. It would be good to learn more and get fair comparisons of al inputs and effects. I think some like to pick out the facts that suit them so we are left incomplete information. I’d love to see this go further. What would it take to got to mass production? What is the source for larger amounts of urea? Do we need to design new methods and tools for collection?
    d paige
    dpaige@cia.edu

  8. Clement S May 14, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Where and when can this be commercialized? In my company, we will build 100s (to 2000) of factories buildings in the next few years in China, I only wished that all the factories are build green. BUT, my boss & the share holders will only concern about cost and time. I assume if the cost is only 10 to 15% more expensive, and if I have talk them into this really really really hard, they might listen, but if transportation cost etc will make this not as green, then it will be a real shame to see something not done and at the end, tons of CO2 will goes to air bcos of these new building to be build.

    Please I hope someone can contact me and let me know how I can prevent the 100s of factories be build by traditional bricks or non green method.

    many thanks
    C Siu
    ckms143@yahoo.com.hk

  9. Donfford May 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    AT the green technology show in Sacramento I ran across a Japanese company that made colored sand finishes for wall, like a paste that was trowled on. Could this type of color sand be used to make special shapes of brincks for thin wall applicatoin that require no stuctural strength and could snap into a wall holder device??

  10. BertMcdert May 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

    This is very fascinating. What’s it gonna take for this thing to get widely adopted and pronto? One quibble: the final line does not actually put anything into perspective. It is a number that is meaningless without context. That 800 million tons is equivalent to…?

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