ARMONK, N.Y. -- Ben Kaplan's science project was inspired by a pothole that flattened his dad's tire.
Kaplan, a student at Byram Hills High School, recently received the Acorda Scientific Excellence Award for his research paper on self-healing concrete.
After his dad's flat tire, Kaplan wondered what if concrete could regenerate or self heal like coral reef or a field of grass.
"I wanted to make something big," Kaplan said. "What is bigger than the material making up nearly every major man-made structure?"
Kaplan studied two already existing types of self-healing concrete: bacterial concrete and engineered cementitious composite (ECC). Bacterial concrete uses bacteria to re-glue cracks, while ECC ties the concrete together with tiny fibers, enabling the cracks to stay so small that they can heal spontaneously.
Kaplan’s research was the first to study the effectiveness of using both types of self-healing concrete in combination with one another, in the lab as well as in real-world environments.
"I want to make concrete stronger and more resilient to the tests of time, so that we may build a better world and sturdier society," Kaplan said.
Working with a mentor, Kaplan made and tested al the concrete.
His results showed that the hybrid self-healing concrete was more effective than either form alone, and that the hybrid was equally as effective in a real-world environment as it was in the lab. Kaplan’s research could lead to the development of a cost-effective, durable, environmentally friendly form of self-healing concrete.
In the future, Kaplan said he wants to work at a biotech startup that would apply genetic engineering to a problem that no one has thought to address.
"I believe that DNA will be the next coding language, and that we are at the beginning of a new technological revolution that will be defined by advances in bioengineering," Kaplan said. "Humanity faces many new challenges, and I hope to be in a place where I can make a significant contribution to solving these problems."