3D printed coral reefs to help marine life recover

Israeli researchers have placed 3D-printed coral reefs in marine environments to help curb the devastation of global reefs.

The world’s coral reefs are disappearing. Factors such as global warming and accelerated urbanization of coastal areas are putting enormous pressure on marine life and damaging coral ecosystems. 3D printing could be a solution.

In an article published in Total Environmental Scienceresearchers from four of Israel’s leading universities – Bar-Ilan U, Technion, University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University – have highlighted a 3D printing method they developed to help preserve coral reefs.

The research project is based on the natural structure of coral reefs off the Israeli coastal city of Eilat, but the model is adaptable to other marine environments and could help curb the reef devastation plaguing coral ecosystems around the world. whole world.

“The rapid decline of coral reefs has increased the need to explore interdisciplinary methods for reef restoration,” explained research team member Natalie Levy.

“Examining how to conserve coral reef biodiversity is a key issue, but there is also an urgent need to invest in technologies that can improve the coral ecosystem and our understanding of the reef environment.”

The 3D process begins with the digitization of thousands of underwater photographs of coral reefs. From this visual information, a three-dimensional model of the reef is assembled. The design of the model takes into account the complex shape of the reef and how this shape promotes the evolution of reef species diversity.

By using a molecular method of collecting environmental genetic information, researchers are able to obtain precise data on reef organisms. This data is then fed into a 3D technology algorithm, building an interactive parametric model that fits the designated reef environment.

The last step is the 3D printing of a reef. The reefs are made of a unique ceramic that is naturally porous underwater, meeting the ideal building and restoration needs of the affected area.

“Three-dimensional printing with natural material facilitates the production of very complex and diverse units, which is not possible with the usual means of mold production,” said Professor Ezri Tarazi.

The model also allows the data to be fed back into the algorithm to verify the level of effectiveness and efficiency of the design after its implementation, based on the information collected during the process.

“Existing artificial reefs struggle to replicate the complexity of coral habitats and to host reef species that reflect natural environments,” Levy said. “We are introducing a new customizable 3D interface to produce scalable structures, using real data collected from coral ecosystems.”

There are currently several 3D printed reefs installed in the Gulf of Eilat and the researchers believe the results will help them apply the innovation to other reef ecosystems around the world.

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