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Research shows live bacteria can lessen earthquake damage

Jeannie Choe

Bacteria aren't lookin' too shabby these days, aiding in digestive health and even moonlighting as a fuel source. Recent studies also show that the use of live bacteria could very well solidify deep, sandy soils that make for treacherous grounds when an earthquake strikes. The new findings hint at a promising alternative to the use of bonding epoxy chemicals, which can boost toxicity levels in soil and water. The mighty microbe, Bacillus pasteurii to be exact, essentially transforms loose sand back into sandstone by depositing calcite (calcium carbonate) throughout the grains, fusing them together. Buildings sitting atop soils treated with the bacteria are predicted to experience considerably less devastation than those on the loose soil that tends to liquefy beneath them in the event of a quake, typically resulting in collapse. The research, partially being developed at UC Davis, is restricted to the lab at the moment, however plans to scale up are on the table. So the next time all you coast-dwellers fall violently ill from some ratfink bacteria, remember that his cousin might save your apartment, or even one day, your life.

[Thanks, Sid]

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