Known as the ‘rainforests of the sea’, coral reefs are vital to the health of our oceans and all marine life – from the smallest organisms to larger fish species.
To help regrow bleached reefs – a phenomenon that takes place when corals get stressed and lose their vibrant colours due to environmental changes – researchers in Israel have developed a method of 3D printing corals that are modelled after actual coral reefs in the ocean.
“We use terracotta clay that becomes ceramic when you fire it in the kiln,” says Natalie Levy, a PhD candidate at the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University. “Once it’s fired in the kiln it maintains its porosity, which is very important for an underwater structure, and then it has similar properties to the actual coral skeleton.”
So far, the reefs have been deployed in the Gulf of Eilat in the Red Sea and there are plans to roll it out in multiple regions such as Colombia, Panama, Brazil or Hawaii, with the hope that corals and other reef-building creatures will start to grow on the structure and help rebuild the reef.
“The idea is to have a massive coral reef restoration project using our structures for wherever people need to add to reefs, to allow corals to settle and to grow,” adds Levy.
Learn more about the 3D printed coral reefs at Science Focus
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