Microbes Can Prevent Potholes…?

Article: “Scientists hope bacteria could be the cure for potholes” by Talia Kirkland

https://www.foxnews.com/science/new-technology-makes-pothole-proof-roads-a-reality

Source:  Fox News

Date Published: Feb. 5, 2019

Summary:   This article/news story explains how bacteria may be an answer to preventing potholes.   Scientists at Drexel University in Philadelphia have found that bacteria (they did not mention a specific species), when mixed with CO2 and calcium, can change the environment around them to self-produce limestone.   When spread out on a road, they can make the road material stronger and more able to withstand damage that would cause potholes.   The technique is not yet being used, but it may be an alternative for better roads in the future.

Connections:    This article relates to what we have been talking about in class because they are introducing CO2 and Ca2+ to the bacteria to (I assume) get them to use a specific metabolic pathway and get the desired product.

Critical Analysis:   I think it is really interesting that it only requires two simple ingredients (CO2 and Ca2+) to get these bacteria to produce limestone.   There may be other underlying factors that contribute to the production of the limestone, but the fact that they figured this out with these simple ingredients that are extremely common is pretty impressive.   The information seemed to be scientifically accurate since they actually interviewed the scientists who did the research; it makes the article a little more credible.   One thing that I found misleading, and a bit frustrating, was that within the article, they kept using the terms pavement and concrete interchangeably, but concrete and asphalt are different materials that are made in different ways.   I don’t know if they actually tested this bacteria mixture on actual roads or not, but I think there would be a difference if they tested them on concrete versus asphalt.   The scientist kept saying “concrete”, which leads me to believe that they experimented with concrete, which is not the same material that roads are usually made out of, as far as I know (I would be surprised if roads in Philadelphia are made out of concrete, although it is possible).   If that is the case, then this mixture may not actually work on pavement (asphalt) to fix potholes, as they are claiming.   It is also possible that they were actually working with pavement and are just using ‘concrete’ incorrectly, which would be confusing to people who know the difference between the two materials!   Other than that, I think the author did a really good job at keeping the information simple enough for any person to understand it.   I think someone who knows nothing about biology would still be able to follow along and understand what they are talking about.

Question:    The scientists say that the bacteria are changing the microenvironment around them to self-produce limestone, which made me wonder- are the bacteria that they are adding the ones who are actually producing the limestone?   If not, then what changes are they making that cause other organisms to produce limestone?

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