DARPA Wants Your Next House to Repair Itself

From Popular Mechanics

Military research agency DARPA is now investing in technologies that will allow building materials to grow on demand and self-repair if damaged.

Current building materials are difficult to produce, transport, and assemble, and they eventually wear out or break down. DARPA's big idea is to replace those current building materials with new materials that can grow into predetermined shapes, repair themselves if damaged, and even adapt or alter themselves to the environment. Its new mission to create them is called the Engineering Living Materials program.

The idea may seem like science fiction, but self-repairing materials have been developed before. Scientists have recently 3D-printed living tissue, so using that technology to produce organic construction materials may not be that far off. The potential benefits are huge: Self-repairing buildings could last for centuries with little or no human repair work. Entire buildings could be grown from scratch, using very little material and requiring virtually zero shipping costs.

"The vision of the ELM program is to grow materials on demand where they are needed," said ELM program manager Justin Gallivan in a press release. "Imagine that instead of shipping finished materials, we can ship precursors and rapidly grow them on site using local resources."

Perhaps the most promising goal of the program is to develop materials that adjust and adapt to their surroundings. For instance, DARPA proposes roof tiles that can passively control airflow, keeping your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter, all without you adjusting the thermostat.

This is all highly speculative, of course, and any advances in this area are not likely to hit the market for many years. But given DARPA's reputation for turning science fiction into science fact, it may only be a matter of time before self-healing houses put the repairman out of business.

Source: DARPA

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