The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a self-healing building material development project.
The Bio-inspired Restoration of Aged Concrete Edifices (BRACE) program seeks to infuse the self-repairing capabilities of living organisms into construction materials such as concrete, helping them prolong the serviceability of defense structures such as airfields and missile silos.
The Pentagon agency has selected the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Battelle Memorial Institute for the program.
Inspired by Vascular Networks
The program participants have proposed integrating concrete with a “network of vasculature,” replicating the vascular network in living organisms that “facilitate heat and mass supply for sustenance, growth, and repair.”
The network will help repair building cracks and diagnose the root causes of structure deterioration before they reach a critical stage.
The teams want to operationalize the “vasculature,” which requires “applying and maintaining its function, developing novel testbeds, and predicting long-term performance through modeling,” DARPA wrote.
Strategic and Tactical Goals
The 4.5-year research effort includes providing strategic solutions for larger structures such as naval piers and missile silos and tactical solutions for “improving rapid airfield damage repair.”
“More than ever, we are seeing how our ability to understand and engineer biology can be leveraged for applications far beyond human health and disease, especially in the field of materials science,” noted BRACE program manager Matthew J. Pava.
“BRACE will attempt to push the limits of what is possible for engineering biological technologies to safely function and preserve our legacy concrete, and in doing so, we likely will learn about new possibilities for engineering biology and materials that we have not yet conceived.”