Scientists have created a new technique to regrow damaged coral reefs using 3D printing
There is a new research proposal that will restore damaged coral reefs. This will be done through 3D printed skeletons made of the same material as the real ones.
Regrowth of these damaged corals has been attempted by replacing them with concrete or polymer corals, but it has not been as effective. It took a long time for good regrowth.
A team of scientists from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) developed a method to make skeletons that would be made of calcium carbonate. The process is called 3D CoraPrint and it begins with a 3D scan of the natural coral skeleton.
In one method, the scan is used to emulate the skeleton. This copy is made of plastic. Then, a silicone mold is made from the model which is then filled with an “ecological and sustainable” calcium carbonate ink. Once it is fixed, the skeleton is removed from the mold.
The other method involves 3D emulation of the skeleton straight out of the calcium carbonate ink, which hardens as it settles on the print bed. In both approaches, the created skeleton is then infused with small pieces of living coral, so that the polycolonization process begins.
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. The molded skeletons need to be very small for the ink to harden inside. The direct printing method gives larger outputs, but it takes a long time.
“With 3D printing and molds, we can achieve both flexibility and an imitation of what is already happening in nature,” says Zainab Khan, who leads the study with Charlotte Hauser and Hamed Albalawi. “The structure and the process can be as close to nature as possible. Our goal is to facilitate that.
The research is described in a recently published article in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering.