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Could Artificial Bone Be Used to Build Future Cities?

Jun 30, 2016 03:20 AM EDT
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In hopes for a more environment-friendly construction, researchers from University of Cambridge have proposed the use of artificial bones and egg shells as alternative for concrete and steel building infrastructures.

According to the report from Christian Science Monitor, developing cities have been relying on concrete and steel for their infrastructures even when these materials are considered to be responsible for as much as the ten percent of the world's total greenhouse emissions.

"Just because we can make all of our buildings out of concrete and steel doesn't mean we should. But it will require big change," said Dr Michelle Oyen, a bioengineer at Cambridge's Department of Engineering, in a press release.

Oyen and her colleagues noted that bones and egg shells are strong, sustainable and can even change the world of construction materials. What makes bones and egg shells durable and strong are the combination of protein and mineral. Bones are consisted of roughly equal amount of proteins and minerals. On the other hand, egg shells are composed of about 95 percent minerals and 5 percent proteins.

The minerals in bones and egg shells provide stiffness and hardness, while proteins gives them the toughness or resistance to fracture.

Using the funds from US Army Corps of Engineers, Oyen and her team constructed artificial bones and egg shells in their lab by "templating" mineral components directly onto collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the animal world.

The researchers were able to developed artificial bones and egg shells in a room temperature, taking less energy to be produced.

However, the researchers noted that it might take some time before we can live in houses made of bones and eggshells. One of the hurdles that is needed to overcome first is the need for collagen that comes from animal resources. Researchers are planning to look into the potential of non-animal-derived or even synthetic protein or polymer as a substitute for collagen.

At present, wood is the primary renewable material used in construction. However, it is still not advisable to be used in tall building due to the high flame risk.

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