Anyone who’s ever heard the story of the three little pigs knows that bricks and blocks make resilient structures. But did you know that cement is the second-most consumed substance on Earth, after water? Or that the manufacturing process for the estimated 1.23 trillion bricks made each year results in 800 million tons of carbon emissions? North Carolina-based start-up bioMASON, Inc. aims to reduce the carbon emissions of global masonry manufacturing by using nature to grow cement, or more specifically biocement ™, instead.
Capitalizing on Natural Processes
bioMASON uses natural microorganisms to “grow” biocement, similar to the way coral reefs are formed. Sand is placed into forms or molds to which bacteria is added. The bacteria is then fed with calcium and other required nutrients, which allows it to make a calcium carbonate between the grains of sand, stitching them all together.
This process is all completed in ambient temperatures, without the need for the high heat required with traditional masonry manufacturing, a large contributor to the carbon dioxide emitted by these processes.
Learning from Nature
The founder of bioMASON, Ginger Krieg Dosier, was an architecture student at Auburn University when she first studied biomimicry and began to consider how natural processes could be applied in architecture. Looking at nature’s durable structures, like seashells and coral, she saw potential in durable structural cements that provide a sustainable alternative to existing manmade materials. After years of trials, she succeeded in growing a usable brick, which led to the establishment of bioMASON in 2012.
Applying Nature’s Technology
Today, bioMASON continues to expand the scale of its production and laboratory capabilities. With eyes on the future, the bioMASON team is also looking at ways biocement could help absorb pollution or add more insulation to a home.
The future is wide open for this nature-inspired material innovation. What else can we learn from applying nature’s principles to material innovation?
The Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas blog was created to share stories and profiles of companies, products and individuals creating innovation in business through inventive material solutions. For more information on why we launched it, read our blog introduction.
*biocement is a trademark of bioMASON
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