Researchers at the Structural Technology Group at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya have developed an innovative new biological concrete that can be used for constructing living facades with lichens, mosses and other microorganisms. The carbon dioxide sucking concrete is made using two cement-based materials – conventional carbonated concrete and magnesium phosphate concrete.
The innovative feature of this new concrete is that it acts as a natural biological support for the growth and development of certain biological organisms including fungi and microalgae. After patenting the idea, the team is now investigating the best way to accelerate the growth of microorganism on the concrete so that the surface acquires an attractive appearance within a year.
The material is produced in a multilayer configuration where the first layer is the waterproofing layer that protects the interior structure from possible water seeping through it. The next year is the biological layer that supports colonization and allows water to accumulate inside it. The final and the topmost layer is a special coating with a reverse waterproofing function. This layer permits the entry of rainwater into the second layer so that it could accelerate biological growth.
Apart from aesthetic and thermal advantages, the new concrete with its biological growth absorbs carbon dioxide from the surrounding air. At the same time, it has the capacity to capture solar radition and act as a thermal mass, directing solar heat to the interior space. The material lends itself to a new concept of vertical garden, not only for newly built constructions, but also for the renovation of existing buildings. Moreover, since the material itself supports biological growth on its surface, complex supporting structures commonly associated with artificial vegetated façades aren’t required.