Ross: We need self healing concrete to fix the roads, not an AI

Apr 7, 2023, 8:15 AM | Updated: 11:53 am


Regular listeners know Dave Ross has two main frustrations with the highway system. Number one, the state needs to cover the graffiti with artificial ivy, and number two, the concrete keeps cracking. (Photo by Cliff Grassmick/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

(Photo by Cliff Grassmick/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

Regular listeners know I have two main frustrations with the highway system. Number one, the state needs to cover the graffiti with artificial ivy, and number two, the concrete keeps cracking.

I admit the ivy thing might be frivolous, but the cracking is out of control.

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Anybody creeping along in traffic can see that the typical freeway looks like your old backyard patio.

And I keep asking myself, how can this be an advanced civilization when we are totally dependent on the one construction material that is guaranteed to crack – concrete? That’s why the aliens never visit – they’re laughing!

I have begged – and Chris Sullivan knows this – I have begged our most talented thinkers to stop trying to create the next ChatBot and instead figure out how to make concrete that won’t crack!

It’s not impossible. There are so many ideas out there, I looked it up.

Here’s Dr. Didier Snoeck at Ghent University in Belgium, who uses microfibers and a special gel.

“In our laboratory, we are having specimens [sic] which can regain up to 100% of its initial strength because even though it’s cracked, it can heal itself and it can regain the properties as if nothing ever happened, so we have a complete healing of the structure,” Snoeck said.

Complete healing!

There’s also Hendrik Jonkers of Delft University in the Netherlands with healing concrete as well.

“We think our concrete will revolutionize the way we build because we’ve been inspired by nature,” Jonkers said. “Plants and animals have the ability to heal themselves, and now we’ve made it possible for concrete to do the same.”

His concrete actually uses naturally-occurring rock bacteria that spring to life when they come in contact with water and fill the cracks with limestone.

And right here in the U.S., there’s Dr. Nima Rahbar at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, who uses an enzyme found in red blood cells that can soak up CO-2 and fill cracks within 24 hours.

“One way of adding to the durability of concrete is to create sort of self-healing concrete,” Rahbar said. “So by adding the enzyme to a solution we have concrete that as the smallest scale cracks develop, they heal itself.”

The point is: more of you young geniuses need to get into concrete research and create a highway system that we can actually keep open!

The human race doesn’t need another chatbot. The human race needs to be able to get from Lynnwood to Southcenter without breaking an axle.

And I don’t care whether it takes bacteria, human enzymes, or fried tofu! We need self-healing concrete, and we need it now.

And if you can also design it to eat the graffiti, even better.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: We need self healing concrete to fix the roads, not an AI