It is really revolutionary, as it is a "concrete" that solidifies without rejecting CO2, thanks to its cyanobacterial base.
> Living building materials (LBMs) were engineered that are capable of both biological and structural functions. LBMs were created by inoculating an inert structural sand-hydrogel scaffold with Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002, a photosynthetic cyanobacterium.
“There’s no way we’re going to carry building materials to space,” Dr. Srubar said. “We’ll bring biology with us.”
The other day me and my friend were riffing on ideas regarding a game about a space courier.
One issue was: given how expensive interstellar travel should be, what could possibly be so valuable as to justify the operation?
Biology. It's possible that flinging hundreds of thousands vials (so as to have a good chance of catching at least one) with certain bacteria at relativistic speeds would be less expensive than coming up with a process of synthesizing the same features in a local species.
Did you come up with a good reason for technology advanced enough to support interstellar travel but not being able to replicate lifeforms synthetically from a digital copy? Maybe alien lifeforms where the detailed chemistry hasn't been worked out?
You might be absolutely right that gelatin is "cheaper" than cement, but because prices don't incorporate externalities (carbon included) we can't use them for comparisons of this type.
Namely you need to look at the total cost of manufacture, especially with respect to the environment and/or CO₂ impacts.
This process, excluding inputs, has a lower CO₂ impact than traditional concrete. It also, currently at least, produces a less useful concrete, as it isn't as strong.
The question is what is the net environmental and CO₂ impact when you also include the inputs.
One area where this new process has a positive impact:
* No need for virgin river sand, although it is unclear if desert sand could be used. At least this would be a good way to "recycle" concrete, which is notoriously hard to re-use.
One area where it has a negative impact:
* This concrete is no longer vegan friendly. Although to be fair, many plantation woods are not strictly vegan either, since may plantations directly lead to a lowering of biodiversity and/or loss of animal habitat. Sand mining is also typically not "victimless".
* Requires a more diverse input/supply chain. Although the article doesn't really go into the impacts of this, so it's hard to estimate how bad this is. For example, do we need a kg of gelatine per kg of concrete, or per tonne of concrete?
There are farmers experimenting with “vegan vegetables”: vegetables grown without manure, but plant-based fertilizer only. E.g. https://www.partyfortheanimals.com/inspiring-pig-farmer-beco...
However "Vegan" things is definitely a tricky subject… for example cars often have leather seats and/or steering wheels. And it can be quite hard to get a "decent trim" car, and _not_ get leather. Tesla do offer "non-animal-leather" seats, but not all manufacturers have such an option.
This is why, desire being in a desert, Dubai imports its sand! (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20160502-even-desert-ci...)