Researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Swire Institute of Marine Sciences (SWIMS) use 3D-printed clay structures to help recover corals found in Hong Kong waters.
The project, called “ reformative coral habitats ”, aims to install 3D printed terracotta panels measuring 65 cm in diameter and weighing approximately 20 kg that will help corals to live and grow.
In 2018 Typhoon Mangkhut destroyed 80% of the corals near Hong Kong’s San Kung Peninsula. Since the recovery of the corals could take decades, the team of researchers from the University of Hong Kong designed the “ reformative coral habitats ” where 3D-printed terracotta panels have cavities for the coral, allowing them to grow both vertically and horizontally. . For this project, the researchers chose clay as the ideal material because it does not change the underwater conditions.
” Hong Kong’s subtropical climate involves a lot of underwater sedimentation ,” explains Associate Professor Lidia Ratoi. “ That is why our panels have many perforations so that the sediment does not settle on the surface and suffocate the corals. The cavities are large enough to allow corals to grow both horizontally, to become strong, and vertically, so that they can compete with other underwater species such as algae that can suffocate them . “
The panels were tested in early spring in a simulated environment where they have been growing. Since the success of the test, the team has printed 128 more clay panels than were unfolded last month. The researchers will monitor coral growth for years to come and project that they will restore at least 40 square meters of coral habitat.