Microbial Manufacture

I always find anything that can reduce the logistics footprint of deployed operations interesting. This one caught my eye, microbial manufacture.

Peter Trimble has recently graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a BA(Hons) Degree in Product Design. As part of his thesis project he looked at methods of reducing energy and materials use in construction.

We know that the current influences and trends in materials technology regarding energy reduction have welcome spin-offs for deployed operations. Reduce the material needs for a given construction project and you reduce the logistics needs, that, never being a bad thing.

The example shows it being used for furniture, in our context I could easily see it being used for general construction and engineering works that would ordinarily use concrete blocks.

From Peter’s website

This project investigates the possibilities of “microbial manufacture”; Replacing energy intensive methods of production with low energy biological processes.

“Dupe” is a microbially induced casting procedure, which presents the bacterium bacillus pasterurii as a method of cementing natural granular materials using minerals as a binding agent for the creation of useful objects.

The process forms mineral composits at biological temperatures. The biomaterial is structurally comparable to concrete, yet the production of the biomaterial produces no greenhouse gases. Concrete is responsible for 5 % of the worlds manmade C02 emissions. The biomaterial produced by this process is a stepping stone in the right direction for the reduction of these carbon emmsions.

Dupe is a low cost production method using very little energy and sand; a cheap and abundant raw material.

Dupe aims to raise questions about the future of industrial manufacturing and illustrates the sustainable potential that the ultilisation of bacillus pasterurii could have with the manufacturing industry. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.

What has energised the press coverage is the use of urine to provide Bacillus pasteurii or Sporosarcina pasteurii as it is now apparently known.

Watch the video

And an earlier TED talk on a similar subject

Read more;




All early days yet of course and no one is going to be excited about sitting on a piss filled stool but one to watch for the long term :)



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February 26, 2014 8:11 am

More baffling is why we haven’t used composting toilets on expeditionary ops ? Still using fuel to burn plastic bags of sh!t in faraway patrol bases seems utter madness when we could be porducing useful compost for local farmers…

Maybe the huge anmiounts of waste creatine and protein shakes due to op massive makes the troops waste indigestible ?

February 26, 2014 10:58 am

More baffling is why we haven’t used composting toilets on expeditionary ops ?

I presume its because you would require an area for the waste to compost, and by the time it is suitable for use as fertiliser it would have inundated the PB. Burning reduces the threat of disease and volume of waste, and considering some of the small explosions coming from said bags, you may be handing the enemy a potent weapon ;-). To be honest the hardest thing to get rid of is urine, maybe we should start pissing into the Hesco?.

Although I don’t see why we could not use waste for bio mass fuel in large bases like Bastion.

February 26, 2014 11:16 am

@DavidNiven: plenty of biogas digesters available for third world countries, excellent idea. Something you could leave in a PB and expect the locals to be able to handle.

February 26, 2014 11:59 am


I would have thought the MOD would have been all over renewable forms of energy for expeditionary purposes. How much fuel and oils, parts etc do we spend on generators in places such as Afghan to charge radio batteries? COTS solar panels would have been much simpler and cost effective to use in a PB, even after a couple of hits the panel will still produce power (albeit reduced) but a new panel weighs 20Kg so could be thrown on the next chopper.

February 26, 2014 12:12 pm

Thanks TD,

As always ahead of the game, one sentence caught my eye,

‘So, GBA is as important as any major project, despite it being a low key and poorly funded activity.’

Is this one of the only times during conflict that the armed forces have failed to innovate and lead the way?

February 26, 2014 12:28 pm

TD how true how true. if there wasn’t interest in pursuing energy effiicent FOBs during Herrick then hard to see what incentive in times of straitened finances. Perhaps the troops enjoy burning shit and filling generators ? Is there still a supplement payable for Work of an Objectionable Nature (shit burning) ?

February 26, 2014 12:30 pm

It really does beggar belief that the most fuel hungry nation on earth are experimenting with 50/50 mixes of bio fuel and fossil fuel in aircraft and at one point were contemplating using nuclear reactors from subs to power large bases.

IMO I believe it’s because our leadership are middle class climate change deniers so don’t really look into what the technologies can provide in any meaningful way.

February 26, 2014 12:47 pm

‘The main problem I think is a simple one, lack of a big picture’

I’d agree with you there, the armed forces are institutionally wasteful. And there is no educating of recruits all the way to the top on energy and waste management. Every piece of equipment is seen as disposable by individuals regardless of cost because, for a lot of them they have not been educated on the logistical costs of delivering even a pair of socks to someone in a PB. It will probably take an institutional change over a generation for anything meaningful to come about.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
February 26, 2014 2:11 pm

Back to the post.

Clearly with development crushing strength will improve. I wonder how durable it is. Also without the hydration reaction it probably does not get as hot so shrinkage may not be a problem.

I haven’t looked at all the links but I presume that unlike traditional ordinary Portland cement (OPC) concrete the bioconcrete is acidic rather than alkaline.

This could be both good and bad news. Embedding ferrous metal in acidic materials is generally not good as corrosion is promoted. Many high strength carbon fibers can not be used in OPC concrete as the alkalinity of the concrete reacts with the fibers. So the concrete could be reinforced with carbon fibres.

This clearly a hot topic see this BRE link http://www.technology4change.com/page.jsp?id=384

February 26, 2014 2:38 pm

Its going to need a lot of refinement before he has a finished product that could take on Hesco.
Could it possibly be used in the use of 3D printing of buildings?

February 26, 2014 10:39 pm

US, UK Ink Research Collaboration Deal.


Cyber security, space research, and energy use and consumption are the immediate collaboration targets