Microbial Biomarkers for ASR-Damaged Concrete

Concrete is the most widely used building material in the world, and deterioration of concrete infra-structure is likewise a global problem. Current methods for identification of damage rely heavily on hu-man observation, forcing departments of transportation as well as other agencies to replace structures after damage has already occurred. Bio-indicators, primarily bacteria associated with specific risk factors for disease, have long been used to identify risk in food production, water treatment, and recreational waters. Here, the authors proposed the identification of bacteria that could serve as bio-indicators for early stages of alkali-silica reaction (ASR), a common mechanism contributing to concrete deterioration in the Mid-Atlantic region. Because the chemistry of ASR-affected concrete differs from that of undamaged concrete, they predicted that the microbial population in ASR-affected concrete would also be different. Identification of bio-indicators for early detection of ASR could allow state and local departments of transportation to treat ASR, or provide them with more time to budget and plan the replacement of affected structures. This work had two phases: Phase I included proof-of-principle experiments demonstrating that viable bacteria were present in concrete, and that DNA could be extracted from concrete and used to comprehensively identify the bacteria in concrete. Phase II was a 2-year time series analyzing DNA in ASR-reactive and ASR-mitigated concrete samples. The samples weathered outside and were collected every 4-8 weeks over the course of the series. DNA was extracted from all samples and analyzed to monitor changes in the concrete “microbiome” over time. This work demonstrated that viable bacteria inhabit ordinary concrete and that DNA can be easily extracted from small (~5-g) samples. The authors further showed that these bacteria primarily come from the large aggregate and that some of the bacteria in ASR-affected concrete are different from those in unaffected concrete. Organisms in the Staphylococcus, Aeromicrobium, Chitinophaga, Sediminibacterium, and Xenococcus genera may be useful bio-indicators, and future work will examine these in more detail. This method can potentially be applied to other types of chemical damage affecting concrete.

  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program. Cover date is February 2018.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability Center

    University of Virginia
    Charlottesville, VA  United States 

    University of Delaware, Newark

    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, DuPont Hall
    Newark, DE  United States  19716

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Maresca, Julia A
    • Kiledal, E Anders
  • Publication Date: 2018-4-30


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 44p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01689899
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC33
  • Created Date: Dec 6 2018 7:46AM