No Bones About It
According to a team of researchers from Cambridge, one of the keys to ensuring that we have a sustainable society, one that can support today’s ever expanding and evolving population, is to build out cities in a renewable and sustainable way...using bone.
While the world continues to seek out ways to create concrete and steel—which are the backbone of our cities (pun intended)—Dr. Michelle Oyen of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering is completely turning the tables on traditional methods. Instead or steel, here team is shifting their attention towards nature itself, through biomimetics.
With support from the US Army Corps of Engineers, Oyen and her team are constructing samples of artificial bone and eggshell, which they believe can be used as medical implants; and when scaled up, used as sustainable building materials to create the cities of the future.
Cities of the Future
“All of our existing building standards have been designed with concrete and steel in mind. Constructing buildings out of entirely new materials would mean completely rethinking the whole industry. But if you want to do something really transformative to bring down carbon emissions, then I think that’s what we have to do. If we’re going to make a real change, a major rethink is what has to happen, ” Oyen notes.
While artificially created, bone and eggshell contain proportions of protein and mineral that work to create a stiff and durable material that is resistant to fracture. And while bones do break, they hope to translate the bone’s ability to self-heal into these biomimetic materials.
The team is also looking into creating bone material ‘templated’ directly onto the most abundant protein in the animal world—collagen. It might be possible to create a lattice-type structure that would make a building material that’s even more durable.