Thanks to 3D printing, Maldives just got the world’s largest artificial coral reef

By Prarthana Mitra

To help the massively bleached corals below the Maldives regain their earlier splendour, a group of scientists from Melbourne developed 3D moulds for similar reefs and shipped them across the Pacific, to be affixed to the ocean floor.

About the experiment

The experiment was aimed at increasing their resilience and longevity against the ongoing environmental rampage, said industrial designer Alex Goad of Reef Design Lab, who helped build the ceramic structures in close resemblance to the original structures found in the Maldives. Ceramic itself is made of calcium carbonate, the same inert substance that occurs in abundance in corals.

From Australia, the moulds reached Summer Island, where they were filled with concrete and assembled at the site of installation. Finally, the 3D printed reefs were submerged seven metres below the continental shelf, reported AFP. The next part was the most crucial: to transplant live coral within the artificial outgrowths. According to the team leading the experiment, there is sufficient reason to believe that the young solitary corals would grow and eventually colonise the structure within the next two or three years.

Why it matters

Bleaching poses the most potent danger to corals, which used to abound in the Pacific Ocean and colour its waters in different hues. With imminent threats like increasing temperatures of water bodies and disposal of chemical wastes in oceans, 3D printing technology is hoped to offer a safety net for corals, for posterity.

“The technology allows us to mimic the complexity of natural reef structures, so we can design artificial reefs that closely resemble those found in nature,” said Goad in a statement, adding, “We hope this will be a more effective way of growing and restoring corals.”

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius


3D Printingcoral reefmaldives