3D-Printed Coral Mimics Nature

3D-Printed Coral Mimics Nature

by Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica

Most of us have heard that coral reefs around the world are dying, largely because of warmer ocean temperatures and the increased acidity of seawater, but few people realize why that is important to humans. Who really cares if the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is nearly lifeless? So a few rich scuba divers won’t get to see it. Boo-hoo. Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Let’s begin by explaining what coral is. Is it a plant? Is it an animal? Actually, it’s a little of both. The coral on the outside provides a framework for algae who live inside. The algae actually convert sunlight via photosynthesis to produce food for themselves and the coral. The living coral, in turn, provides a habitat for hundreds of species of marine life — species that form a vital link in the food chain that hundreds of millions of people rely on for their daily sustenance. Those little algae may seem insignificant, but without them many people would die of malnutrition.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and UC San Diego say they have found a way to 3D-print a bionic coral that supports the photosynthesis capabilities of algae. “Corals are highly efficient at collecting and using light,” said first author Daniel Wangpraseurt, a professor of chemistry at Cambridge. “In our lab, we’re looking for methods to copy and mimic these strategies from nature for commercial applications.”

Read the full article here…

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