Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 7, pp 3059–3070 | Cite as

Current challenges and future directions for bacterial self-healing concrete

  • Yun Suk Lee
  • Woojun Park


Microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitation (MICP) has been widely explored and applied in the field of environmental engineering over the last decade. Calcium carbonate is naturally precipitated as a byproduct of various microbial metabolic activities. This biological process was brought into practical use to restore construction materials, strengthen and remediate soil, and sequester carbon. MICP has also been extensively examined for applications in self-healing concrete. Biogenic crack repair helps mitigate the high maintenance costs of concrete in an eco-friendly manner. In this process, calcium carbonate precipitation (CCP)-capable bacteria and nutrients are embedded inside the concrete. These bacteria are expected to increase the durability of the concrete by precipitating calcium carbonate in situ to heal cracks that develop in the concrete. However, several challenges exist with respect to embedding such bacteria; harsh conditions in concrete matrices are unsuitable for bacterial life, including high alkalinity (pH up to 13), high temperatures during manufacturing processes, and limited oxygen supply. Additionally, many biological factors, including the optimum conditions for MICP, the molecular mechanisms involved in MICP, the specific microorganisms suitable for application in concrete, the survival characteristics of the microorganisms embedded in concrete, and the amount of MICP in concrete, remain unclear. In this paper, metabolic pathways that result in conditions favorable for calcium carbonate precipitation, current and potential applications in concrete, and the remaining biological challenges are reviewed.


MICP Self-healing concrete Bacterial encapsulation Self-healing assessment Microbial activity Calcium carbonate precipitation 


Funding information

This work was supported by a grant (18SCIP-B103706-04) from the Construction Technology Research Program funded by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of Korean government.

Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.


  1. Achal V, Mukherjee A, Basu PC, Reddy MS (2009a) Lactose mother liquor as an alternative nutrient source for microbial concrete production by Sporosarcina pasteurii. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 36:433–438. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Achal V, Mukherjee A, Basu PC, Reddy MS (2009b) Strain improvement of Sporosarcina pasteurii for enhanced urease and calcite production. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 36:981–988. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Achal V, Pana X, Özyurtb N (2011) Improved strength and durability of fly ash-amended concrete by microbial calcite precipitation. Ecol Eng 37:554–559. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bang SS, Galinat JK, Ramakrishnan V (2001) Calcite precipitation induced by polyurethane-immobilized Bacillus pasteurii. Enzym Microb Technol 28:404–409. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bansal R, Dhami NK, Abhijit M, Sudhakara Reddy M (2016) Biocalcification by halophilic bacteria for remediation of concrete structures in marine environment. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 43(11):1497–1505CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Basaran Z (2013) Biomineralization in cement based materials: inoculation of vegetative cells. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Texas at AustinGoogle Scholar
  7. Baumgartner LK, Reid RP, Dupraz C, Decho AW, Buckley DH, Spear JR, Przekop KM, Visscher PT (2006) Sulfate reducing bacteria in microbial mats: changing paradigms, new discoveries. Sediment Geol 185:131–145. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bergdale TE, Pinkelman RJ, Hughes SR, Zambelli B, Ciurli S, Bang SS (2012) Engineered biosealant strains producing inorganic and organic biopolymers. J Biotechnol 161:181–189. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Boquet E, Boronat A, Ramos-Cormenzana A (1973) Production of calcite (calcium carbonate) crystals by soil bacteria is a general phenomenon. Nature 246:527–529. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bosak T, Newman DK (2003) Microbial nucleation of calcium carbonate in the Precambrian. Geology 31:577–580.<0577:MNOCCI>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Braissant O, Cailleau G, Dupraz C, Verrecchia EP (2003) Bacterially induced mineralization of calcium carbonate in terrestrial environments: the role of exopolysaccharides and amino acids. J Sediment Res 73:485–490. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Braissant O, Decho AW, Dupraz C, Glunk C, Przekop KM, Visscher PT (2007) Exopolymeric substances of sulfate-reducing bacteria: interactions with calcium at alkaline pH and implication for formation of carbonate minerals. Geobiology 5:401–411. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Castanier S, Le Metayer-Levrel G, Perthuisot JP (1999) Ca-carbonates precipitation and limestone genesis—the microbiogeologist point of view. Sediment Geol 126:9–23. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chen H, Qian C, Huang H (2016) Self-healing cementitious materials based on bacteria and nutrients immobilized respectively. Constr Build Mater 126:297–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Connolly J, Kaufman M, Rothman A, Gupta R, Redden G, Schuster M, Colwell F, Gerlach R (2013) Construction of two ureolytic model organisms for the study of microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitation. J Microbiol Methods 94:290–299. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Cuthbert MO, McMillan LA, Handley-Sidhu S, Riley MS, Tobler DJ, Phoenix VR (2013) A field and modeling study of fractured rock permeability reduction using microbially induced calcite precipitation. Environ Sci Technol 47:13637–13643. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. De Belie N (2016) Application of bacteria in concrete: a critical review. RILEM Tech Lett 1:56–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Muynck W, De Belie N, Verstraete W (2010) Microbial carbonate precipitation in construction materials: a review. Ecol Eng 36:118–136. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. De Muynck W, Verbeken K, De Belie N, Verstraete W (2013) Influence of temperature on the effectiveness of a biogenic carbonate surface treatment for limestone conservation. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97:1335–1347. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Dejong JT, Fritzges MB, Nüsslein K (2006) Microbially induced cementation to control sand response to undrained shear. J Geotech Geoenviron Eng 132:1381–1392. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dhami NK, Reddy MS, Mukherjee A (2013) Biomineralization of calcium carbonates and their engineered applications: a review. Front Microbiol 4:314. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Dupraz C, Reid RP, Braissant O, Decho AW, Norman RS, Visscher PT (2009) Processes of carbonate precipitation in modern microbial mats. Earth-Sci Rev 96:141–162. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dupraz C, Visscher PT, Baumgartner LK, Reid RP (2004) Microbe-mineral interactions: early carbonate precipitation in a hypersaline lake (Eleuthera Island, Bahamas). Sedimentology 51:745–765. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ehrlich HL (2002) Geomicrobiology, 4th edn. Marcel Dekker, New York, p 768Google Scholar
  25. Ersan YC, Gruyaert E, Louis G, Lors C, De Belie N, Boon N (2015) Self-protected nitrate reducing culture for intrinsic repair of concrete cracks. Front Microbiol 6:1228. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Falkowski PG, Fenchel T, Delong EF (2008) The microbial engines that drive Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. Science 320:1034–1039. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Ferris FG (2000) Microbe–metal interactions in sediments. In: Riding RE, Awramik SM (eds) Microbial sediments. Springer, Berlin, pp 121–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ferris FG, Stehmeier LG, Kantzas A, Mourits FM (1997) Bacteriogenic mineral plugging. J Can Pet Technol 36:56–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fujita Y, Ferris FG, Lawson RD, Colwell FS, Smith RW (2000) Subscribed content calcium carbonate precipitation by ureolytic subsurface bacteria. Geomicrobiol J 17:305–318. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gadd GM (2010) Metals, minerals and microbes: geomicrobiology and bioremediation. Microbiology 156:609–643. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Ghosh S, Biswas M, Chattopadhyay BD, Mandal S (2009) Microbial activity on the microstructure of bacteria modified mortar. Cem Concr Compos 31:93–98. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hammes F, Boon N, De Villiers J, Verstraete W, Siciliano SD (2003) Strain-specific ureolytic microbial calcium carbonate precipitation. Appl Environ Microbiol 69:4901–4909. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. Hammes F, Verstraete W (2002) Key roles of pH and calcium metabolism in microbial carbonate precipitation. Rev Environ Sci Biotechnol 1:3–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hazen RM, Papineau D, Bleeker W, Downs RT, Ferry JM, McCoy TJ, Sverjensky DA, Yang H (2008) Mineral evolution. Am Mineral 93:1693–1720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jonkers HM, Thijssen A, Muyzer G, Copuroglu O, Schlangen E (2010) Application of bacteria as self-healing agent for the development of sustainable concrete. Ecol Eng 36:230–235. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jonkers H (2017) “Bio-concrete” set to revolutionise the building industry. MSC NewsWire. Accessed 22 Dec 2017
  37. Jroundi F, Schiro M, Ruiz-Agudo E, Elert K, Martín-Sánchez I, González-Muñoz MT, Rodriguez-Navarro C (2017) Protection and consolidation of stone heritage by self-inoculation with indigenous carbonatogenic bacterial communities. Nat Commun 8:279. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. Kang CH, Han SH, Shin Y, Oh SJ, So JS (2014) Bioremediation of Cd by microbially induced calcite precipitation. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 172:1929–1937. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Khaliq W, Ehsan MB (2016) Crack healing in concrete using various bio influenced self-healing techniques. Constr Build Mater 102:349–357. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kim HJ, Eom HJ, Park C, Jung J, Shin B, Kim W, Chung N, Choi IG, Park W (2016) Calcium carbonate precipitation by Bacillus and Sporosarcina strains isolated from concrete and analysis of the bacterial community of concrete. J Microbiol Biotechnol 26:540–548. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Kim HJ, Shin B, Lee YS, Park W (2017) Modulation of calcium carbonate precipitation by exopolysaccharide in Bacillus sp. JH7. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 101:6551–6561. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Kristiansen B (2001) Process economics. In: Ratledge C, Kristiansen B (eds) Basic biotechnology, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  43. Lee YS, Kim HJ, Park W (2017) Non-ureolytic calcium carbonate precipitation by Lysinibacillus sp. YS11 isolated from the rhizosphere of Miscanthus sacchariflorus. J Microbiol 55:440–447. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Li M, Fu QL, Zhang Q, Achal V, Kawasaki S (2015) Bio-grout based on microbially induced sand solidification by means of asparaginase activity. Sci Rep 5:16128. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. Luo M, Qian CX (2016) Performance of two bacteria-based additives used for self-healing concrete. J Mater Civ Eng 28(12):04016151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Luo M, Qian C-x, Li R-y (2015) Factors affecting crack repairing capacity of bacteria-based selfhealing concrete. Constr Build Mater 87:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Martin D, Dodds K, Butler IB, Ngwenya BT (2013) Carbonate precipitation under pressure for bioengineering in the anaerobic subsurface via denitrification. Environ Sci Technol 47:8692–8699. PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Matsunaga T, Tadokoro F, Nakamura N (1990) Mass culture of magnetic bacteria and their application to flow type immunoassays. IEEE Trans Magn 26:1557–1559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Miller AG, Colman B (1980) Evidence for HCO3 - transport by the blue-green alga (Cyanobacterium) Coccochloris peniocystis. Plant Physiol 65:397–402CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. Mortensen BM, Haber MJ, DeJong JT, Caslake LF, Nelson DC (2011) Effects of environmental factors on microbial induced calcium carbonate precipitation. J Appl Microbiol 111:338–349. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Okwadha GDO, Li J (2010) Optimum conditions for microbial carbonate precipitation. Chemosphere 81:1143–1148. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Palin D, Wiktor V, Jonkers HM (2016) A bacteria-based bead for possible self-healing marine concrete applications. Smart Mater Struct 25(8):084008CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Phillips AJ, Cunningham AB, Gerlach R, Hiebert R, Hwang C, Lomans BP, Westrich J, Mantilla C, Kirksey J, Esposito R, Spangler L (2016) Fracture sealing with microbially-induced calcium carbonate precipitation: a field study. Environ Sci Technol 50:4111–4117. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Phillips AJ, Gerlach R, Lauchnor E, Mitchell AC, Cunningham AB, Spangler L (2013) Engineered applications of ureolytic biomineralization: a review. Biofouling 29:715–733. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Qian C, Chen H, Ren L, Luo M (2015) Self-healing of early age cracks in cement-based materials by mineralization of carbonic anhydrase microorganism. Front Microbiol 6:1225CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  56. Ramachandran SK, Ramakrishnan V, Bang SS (2001) Remediation of concrete using micro-organisms. ACI Mater J 98:3–9Google Scholar
  57. Reeburgh WS (2007) Oceanic methane biogeochemistry. Chem Rev 107:486–513. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Rodriguez-Navarro C, Jroundi F, Schiro M, Ruiz-Agudo E, González-Muñoz MT (2012) Influence of substrate mineralogy on bacterial mineralization of calcium carbonate: implications for stone conservation. Appl Environ Microbiol 78:4017–4029. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  59. Rodriguez-Navarro C, Rodriguez-Gallego M, Chekroun KB, Gonzalez-Muñoz MT (2003) Conservation of ornamental stone by Myxococcus xanthus-induced carbonate biomineralization. Appl Environ Microbiol 69:2182–2193. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  60. Sarkar M, Adak D, Tamang A, Chattopadhyay B, Mandal S (2015) Genetically-enriched microbe-facilitated selfhealing concrete – a sustainable material for a new generation of construction technology. RSC Adv 5:105363–105371. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Seifan M, Samani AK, Berenjian A (2016) Bioconcrete: next generation of self-healing concrete. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 100:2591–2602. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Seifan M, Samani AK, Berenjian A (2017) New insights into the role of pH and aeration in the bacterial production of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 101:3131–3142. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Sham E, Mantle MD, Mitchell J, Tobler DJ, Phoenix VR, Johns ML (2013) Monitoring bacterially induced calcite precipitation in porous media using magnetic resonance imaging and flow measurements. J Contam Hydrol 152:35–43. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Sierra Beltran MG, Jonkers HM (2015) Crack self-healing technology based on bacteria. J Ceram Proc Res 16:33–39Google Scholar
  65. Silva FB, Boon N, De Belie N, Verstraete W (2015) Industrial application of biological self-healing concrete: challenges and economical feasibility. J Commer Biotechnol 21:31–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thiyagarajan H, Maheswaran S, Mapa M, Krishnamoorthy S, Balasubramanian B, Murthy AR, Iyer NR (2016) Investigation of bacterial activity on compressive strength of cement mortar in different curing media. J Adv Concr Technol 14(4):125–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tziviloglou E, Wiktor V, Jonkers HM, Schlangen E (2016) Bacteria-based self-healing concrete to increase liquid tightness of cracks. Constr Build Mater 122:118–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tziviloglou E, Wiktor V, Jonkers HM, Schlangen E (2017) Selection of nutrient used in biogenic healing agent for cementitious materials. Front Mater 4:15. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Van Paassen LA, Daza CM, Staal M, Sorokin DY, van der Zon W, van Loosdrecht MC (2010) Potential soil reinforcement by biological denitrification. Ecol Eng 36:168–175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Van Tittelboom K, De Belie N, Van Loo D, Jacobs P (2011) Self-healing efficiency of cementitious materials containing tubular capsules filled with healing agent. Cem Concr Compos 33:497–505. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wang J, Ersan YC, Boon N, De Belie N (2016) Application of microorganisms in concrete: a promising sustainable strategy to improve concrete durability. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 100:2993–3007. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Wang J, Mignon A, Snoeck D, Wiktor V, Van Vliergerghe S, Boon N, De Belie N (2015) Application of modified-alginate encapsulated carbonate producing bacteria in concrete: a promising strategy for crack self-healing. Front Microbiol 6:1088. PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  73. Wang JY, De Belie N, Verstraete W (2012b) Diatomaceous earth as a protective vehicle for bacteria applied for self-healing concrete. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 39:567–577. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Wang JY, Snoeck D, Van Vlierberghe S, Verstraete W, De Belie N (2014a) Application of hydrogel encapsulated carbonate precipitating bacteria for approaching a realistic self-healing in concrete. Constr Build Mater 68:110–119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wang JY, Soens H, Verstraete W, De Belie N (2014b) Self-healing concrete by use of microencapsulated bacterial spores. Cem Concr Res 56:139–152. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wang JY, Van Tittelboom K, De Belie N, Verstraete W (2012a) Use of silica gel or polyurethane immobilized bacteria for self-healing concrete. Constr Build Mater 26:532–540. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Wegmann U, Lucia Carvalho A, Stocks M, Carding SR (2017) Use of genetically modified bacteria for drug delivery in humans: revisiting the safety aspect. Sci Rep 7:2294. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  78. Wiktor V, Jonkers HM (2016) Bacteria-based concrete: from concept to market. Smart Mater Struct 25(8):084006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Williams SL, Sakib N, Kirisits MJ, Ferron RD (2016) Flexural strength recovery induced by vegetative bacteria added to mortar. ACI Mater J 113(4):523–531Google Scholar
  80. Yoosathaporn S, Tiangburanatham P, Bovonsombut S, Chaipanich A, Pathom-Aree W (2016) A cost effective cultivation medium for biocalcification of Bacillus pasteurii KCTC 3558 and its effect on cement cubes properties. Microbiol Res 186-187:132–138. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. Zhang JL, Wang CG, Wang QL, Feng JL, Pan W, Zheng XC, Liu B, Han NX, Xing F, Deng X (2016a) A binary concrete crack self-healing system containing oxygen-releasing tablet and bacteria and its Ca2+-precipitation performance. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 100:1–12. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Zhang JL, Wu RS, Li YM, Zhong JY, Deng X, Liu B, Han NX, Xing F (2016b) Screening of bacteria for selfhealing of concrete cracks and optimization of the microbial calcium precipitation process. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 100:6661–6670.
  83. Zhu T, Dittrich M (2016) Carbonate precipitation through microbial activities in natural environment, and their potential in biotechnology: a review. Front Bioeng Biotechnol 4:4. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Molecular Environmental Microbiology, Department of Environmental Science and Ecological EngineeringKorea UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

Personalised recommendations