By volume, concrete is the most important material in the world - more than twice as much concrete is produced every year as every other material combined. At the same time, the production of cement, which is the most important component of concrete, accounts for somewhere between 5 and 10 % of global, anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The goal of BioZEment 2.0 is to develop the fundamental knowledge that is required for being able to produce concrete materials based on biotechnology. Biotechnology can allow us to produce materials with considerably lower energy use and CO2 emissions than what we make today. In order to reach this goal, we have established a multidisciplinary consortium with expertise in microbiology, life cycle assessment, techno-economic analysis and research on consumer-related aspects. Our results confirm that this type of material has the potential to make a significant difference in Norwegian and global CO2 emissions, and that the attitudes of consumers in general are positive. We have established experimental and numerical models for understanding the biogeochemical couplings in the material on the microscale, coupled to a genetic based metabolic model for the bacteria. We have also developed a production system for prototypes that can be used to test material properties on a larger scale. These developments constitute a foundation for the further development of biocement-based building materials.
Nyvinningene i metabolsk modellering av lite kjente organismer er relevante både for fagfeltet generelt og innen bioprospektering, og har ført til et nytt prosjekt om kvantifisering av bestanddelene i mikrobiell biomasse.
Utviklingen av et mikroskala eksperimentelt system har gitt nye verktøy for å studere pH i mikrobiell oppløsning og utfelling av CaCO3, informasjon som ikke var tilgjengelig med eksisterende metoder.
Ved hjelp av genetiske metoder ble det utviklet en rekombinant Bacillus-stamme som kan gjennomføre hele BioZEment-prosessen, fra organisk syreproduksjon til ureolyse, koblet sammen via en regulerbar promoter. Dette åpner for videre genetisk arbeid og forbedringer.
Utviklingen av en mikroskala numerisk modell som inkluderer biologiske reaksjoner vil være nyttig for videre studier av mikrobiell aktivitet i porøse medier.
Fokusgruppestudien med spørreskjema som deltakerne fylte ut på ulike stadier av studien ga nye innspill til innovasjonsprosessen.
The production of concrete accounts for more than 5% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and new, disruptive technology in the field is needed to make a large-scale impact. Among the alternative avenues currently pursued is the use of naturally occurring mineral-microbe interactions in the production of construction materials. Integrated efforts across multiple disciplines, including biotechnology, nanotechnology, mathematics, geochemistry, process engineering, techno-economics, and social sciences will make it possible to pave the way for a more sustainable production of concrete for construction purposes in the bioeconomy era.
The idea of BioZEment originates from the Research Council of Norway's first Idélab "Towards the Zero Emission Society" (2014). Our basic concept is to employ bacteria to produce acid to partially dissolve crushed limestone, and subsequently induce an increase in pH by biocatalysis to initiate re-precipitation of calcium carbonate to bind sand grains together, forming a solid, concrete-like construction material. Experimental results from the Idélab project indicate the overall feasibility of the BioZEment concept. However, in order to elevate the current technological achievements to the next level, an in-depth systems-scale understanding at different levels will be necessary to guide further development of the concept. To that purpose, the BioZEment consortium will team up with additional partners at IRIS and NTNU, forming BioZEment 2.0, to expand its theoretical and predictive capabilities in the fields of systems biology and bio-geochemical process modelling. This is essential to guide the BioZEment process towards commercial large-scale applications.