A cool project with an unfortunate acronym, LIAR or Living Architecture is developing construction bricks composed of biofilm that can harness solar energy, wastewater, and air pollution, and turn them into usable resources. The living bricks fit together to create ‘bioreactor walls’ that can be programmed to perform all sorts of functions. The inventors say the new, sustainable construction material could be worked into homes, public buildings, and office spaces.

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Newcastle University coordinates the $3.6-million interdisciplinary project involving experts from the universities of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Trento, the Spanish National Research Council; LIQUIFER Systems Group, and EXPLORA. The bricks are equal parts awesome and gross. Inside each of them is a microbial fuel cell which is filled with programmable synthetic microorganisms. A variety of microorganisms will reside in each chamber, specifically designed to perform one of a number of functions, including purifying water, reclaiming phosphate from the air, generating electricity, and creating detergents. Robotically activated and digitally coordinated, these bricks are as smart as they are savvy, capable of turning ordinary buildings into efficient machines.

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The gross part has to do with the project’s inspiration, which comes straight from nature. “The best way to describe what we’re trying to create is a ‘biomechanical cow’s stomach’,” said Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, UK, who coordinates the project. “It contains different chambers, each processing organic waste for a different, but overall related, purpose–like a digestive system for your home or your office. The project brings together living architecture, computing and engineering to find a new way to tackle global issues, like sustainability.”

Living bricks may eventually transform homes and office buildings with a more sustainable approach to construction and building functions. “The technologies we are developing aim to transform the places where we live and work enabling us co-live with the building,” said Professor Andrew Adamatzky, LIAR Project Director for UWE Bristol. “A building made from bio-reactors will become a large-scale living organism that addresses all environmental and energy needs of the occupants.”

Via Newcastle University

Images via Marc Falardeau/Flickr and LIAR Project