Bacteria: Our Newest Defense in Earthquake Country?
Sandy soil is a problem for the Bay Area for two reasons: it does terribly in earthquakes and it’s disturbingly common around here, especially in the City. There are ways to deal with it, of course. Aside from building defensively, a good idea anywhere in earthquake country, engineers can impregnate the soil with epoxy or the like. This isn’t very environmentally friendly, though, as uncured epoxies aren’t very nice chemicals to have around you.
Slashdot ran a story today about a possible alternate solution. Researchers at UC Davis have found a way to use Bacillus pasteurii bacteria (commonly found in soil) to fill in the areas between sand grains with calcite, turning the sand into sandstone. It’s the same sort of thing that coral does when creating its skeleton.
As of now, they’ve only tried this on a a very small scale in the lab, but they’re studying the technique to see if it’ll scale up economically and safely. The UC Davis press release is here.