3D-Printed Terracotta Tiles to Restore Growth of Coral Reefs

Terracotta ceramics have been part of human civilization for centuries; however, scientists have found a whole new purpose for the material. Marine scientists and architects have worked together on 3D-printed terracotta tiles to restore coral reefs.

The project was undertaken by members of Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and its Robotic Fabrication Lab of the faculty of architecture. The 3D-printed terracotta tiles, which will act as artificial reefs.

3D-Printed Terracotta Tiles to Restore Growth of Coral Reefs

3D-printed terracotta tiles to restore coral reefs | Image: Christian J. Lange/HKU

Amid the climate change, coral presence in Hong Kong has declined over the past few years. According to Green Power, a Hong Kong-based environmental group, the coral population has reduced around 80 percent in Double Island, Sai Kung, over the past decade.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on earth. The damage inflicted on the coral reefs is due to global warming, pollution, net fishing and water sports. Researchers at HKU also refer to gradual deterioration of coral habitat, coral bleaching, and partial mortality events.

3D-Printed Terracotta Tiles to Restore Growth of Coral Reefs

The coral reefs latch onto the complex structure of the tiles | Image: Christian J. Lange/HKU

The newly created man-made or artificial reefs can help restore lost coral populations by reintroducing an environment amenable to regrowth. The robotic 3D-printing process provides exceptional advantages in the design and creation of artificial reefs. It has enabled the team to make tiles with different designs and functions.

Also Read: Scientists Use Biorocks to Regenerate Coral Reefs in Gulf of Kutch

The tiles are highly porous with nice surface micro-texture for marine organisms to adhere to. It is an eco-friendly alternative to conventional materials such as cement or metal. While all the coral tiles are identical in this preliminary project, the team will use diverse designs in the future iteration to evaluate how they affect the species. The designs can be precise to the environment and aquatic conditions where they are positioned.

3D-Printed Terracotta Tiles to Restore Growth of Coral Reefs

These tiles can help in restoring the lost population of coral reefs | Image: Christian J. Lange/HKU

The reef tile design offers a basically complex foundation – providing coral fragments plenty of space to latch onto, and averts sediment buildup, which is a huge threat to the corals.

The team positioned the reef tiles planted with coral fragments over a 430-square-foot area across three sites within Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park in Hong Kong. Researchers will observe coral growth on the tiles over the next two years.

Via: 3D Printing Media

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