Engineering applications

Bioconcrete and smart energy grids


Concrete is one of the most commonly used materials when it comes to construction. The history of concrete is almost as old as the history of civilization, and the first instance of its use goes back to archaic periods such as Ancient Egypt. However, there are several problems that have to be addressed before it’s too late. One of them being its large environmental impact and the other is that concrete is a material that cracks easily and, moreover, it’s quite expensive to repair or maintain in an optimal state.

Finding a solution to these problems is possible thanks to a biomimetic approach to engineering. Microorganisms called ‘extermophiles‘, capable of living in extreme, inhospitable and artificial conditions, can be mixed with concrete and serve as natural repairmen due to their ability to seal holes and strengthen weak areas. This results in what we call ‘bioconcrete‘.

The advantages of this new type of concrete are numerous: for example, the need of rebuilding decreases and, therefore, it also does the demand for concrete, the production of which generates 5% of the carbon dioxide currently poured into the atmosphere. In addition, maintaining the buildings is far more economical for companies and administrations.

Intelligent energy networks

Based on the obvious energetic need to make a transition from the dependence from fossil fuels to the use of renewable resources, engineer Pep Salas studied how nature manages the flow of matter, energy, and information to develop smart grids.

These intelligent networks of energy distribution can determine when a point of the network has to act as a consumer or as a producer according to the global state. These nanostructures, inspired by ecosystemic flows, generate a high impact not only from an energetic point of view but also from an economic and social one.

In this specific case, nature has also been a source of direct inspiration for the design of solar panels that, like sunflowers, maximize irradiation hours by constantly monitoring the evolution of the sun in the sky.