Could marine sponge provide structures for future construction?


Researchers at Harvard University believe that the lattice-like skeletons of marine sponges could inspire the next generation of skyscrapers and bridges.

In a paper published in Nature Materials, the team from Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences (SEAS) dispelled the assumption that sponges are soft and squishy. Infact, the diagonally reinforced structure of Euplectella aspergillum has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than the traditional lattice designs that have been used for centuries in the construction of buildings and bridges.

"In many fields, such as aerospace engineering, the strength-to-weight ratio of a structure is critically important," said James Weaver, a senior scientist at SEAS and one of the corresponding authors of the paper. "This biologically-inspired geometry could provide a roadmap for designing lighter, stronger structures for a wide range of applications.”

“We’ve been studying structure-function relationships in sponge skeletal systems for more than 20 years, and these species continue to surprise us,” said Weaver.

In simulations and experiments, the researchers replicated this design and compared the sponge’s skeletal architecture to existing lattice geometries. The sponge design outperformed them all, withstanding heavier loads without buckling. The researchers showed that the paired parallel crossed-diagonal structure improved overall structural strength by more than 20 percent, without the need to add additional material to achieve this effect.

“We found that the sponge's diagonal reinforcement strategy achieves the highest buckling resistance for a given amount of material, which means that we can build stronger and more resilient structures by intelligently rearranging existing material within the structure," said Matheus Fernandes, a graduate student at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Read more about this exciting discovery here:

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