Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stop Plate Tectonics with Bacteria!

You can't stop plate tectonics with bacteria. What are you, nuts? But maybe you could use bacteria to stop liquefaction, the phenomenon through with unstable, sandy soils act like liquid during an earthquake and compound the danger to structures on the surface:
Civil engineers already know they can inject chemicals into loose soil to bind grains together. But the chemicals are toxic.

A natural culture of Bacillus pasteurii along with oxygen and other nutrients causes calcium carbonate to form around sand grains, cementing them together. The structure of the soil is not changed; the gaps are simply filled in.

"Starting from a sand pile, you turn it back into sandstone," said Jason DeJong, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Davis.
Link. The solidifying qualities of B. pasteurii might be of interest to the good people of China, who are sitting on top of an Arctic Ocean's worth of subterranean water:
“It would still look like solid rock to you,” [Washington State University seismologist Michael] Wysession told LiveScience. “You would have to put it in the lab to find the water in it.”

. . . . “The water molecules are actually stuck in the mineral structure of the rock.”

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